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COVID-19: A Look Back

Ambulance sirens pierced vacant cobblestone streets and an eerie calm settled over the small town of Cremona, Italy. But inside the local hospital, the atmosphere was anything but calm as hundreds of coronavirus patients filled every spare room and lined the hallways.

Early in 2020, as the virus spread around the globe, Northern Italy became an epicentre of COVID-19 infections. Local hospital infrastructure was incapacitated by the volume of patients, leaving medical staff with a lack of space and resources. At Cremona Hospital, 500 of the 600 patient beds had been converted to care for the influx of COVID-19 patients and the doctors and nurses could no longer meet the critical needs on their own.

On 17 March, Samaritan’s Purse airlifted a 68-bed Emergency Field Hospital to Cremona to help support the local hospital. The mobile hospital was outfitted with a specialised respiratory care unit and a 10-bed intensive care unit (ICU) for critical patients.

By 15 April, five Australian medical disaster response specialists joined the Samaritan’s Purse team in Italy to serve alongside over 70 medical and technical professionals from around the world.

Francesco was the first person admitted to our ICU, where doctors and nurses provided round-the-clock care as Francesco fought for his life. Nurse Shannon Wood prayed that Francesco and the other patients at the Emergency Field Hospital would feel the love of Jesus while receiving care within the tents.

“When we are covered in personal protective equipment and all they can see are my eyes, I’m able to love these patients and stroke their hair and hold their hand,” Shannon said. Their compassion and care opened doors to demonstrate God’s love and hope.

Though Francesco never saw Shannon’s face, or the faces of the other doctors and nurses who cared for him, he told them: “I feel love through your eyes.”

Thanks be to God, Francesco was removed from a ventilator after several days in intensive care and transitioned to step-down medical care. Francesco was able to return home with a testimony of all that God had done. Over the course of two months, we treated 281 COVID-19 patients in Cremona.

Samaritan’s Purse also deployed an Emergency Field Hospital to Central Park in New York City. “These are uncertain times,” said Franklin Graham during a visit to thank medical staff serving in the field hospital. “I want the people of New York to know that God created us and loves us. He hasn’t forgotten us.” Through our partnership with the local Mount Sinai Health System, we treated more than 300 coronavirus patients in New York, including 190 at our Central Park site.

We deployed a third field hospital to Nassau, Bahamas – where the number of coronavirus patients had overwhelmed the local healthcare system – and sent medical teams to King Salmon, Alaska and Navajo Nation, Arizona.

In addition to our medical response, Samaritan’s Purse worked in 24 countries to meet the needs of vulnerable communities and prevent the spread of the virus. We trained 878,289 people in prevention measures, and distributed 489,573 protective supplies and 147,458 hygiene kits. Our teams also provided more than 28,000 food hampers to families whose livelihoods were threatened by the economic impacts of the coronavirus. Through these efforts, more than 120,479 people were encouraged and comforted in Jesus’ Name.

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