Selfies of exhausted faces, bruised and creased from goggles and masks, have been posted on social media by nurses and doctors from around the world. Many have dark circles under their eyes and a clear weariness in their expression.
Health care professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus battle are struggling against forces that are out of their control. Overcrowded hospitals, a lack of ventilators, the risk of getting infected themselves and the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) are just a few challenges these workers are facing.
"I'm afraid too ... I'm afraid to go to work," Alessia Bonari, a nurse from Tuscany, Italy, wrote on Instagram. "I'm afraid because the mask may not adhere well to the face, or I may have accidentally touched myself with dirty gloves, or maybe the lenses do not completely cover my eyes and something may have passed."
Bonari shared a photo of her forehead and cheeks covered in red splotches from where her protective mask dug into her skin. "I am physically tired because the protective devices are bad, the lab coat makes you sweat and once dressed I can no longer go to the bathroom or drink for six hours," she wrote. Not only is she physically exhausted, she is "psychologically tired," she said.
However, nothing prevents Bonari and her colleagues from doing their jobs, she said.
Bonari shared an important message for her followers: Stay home. She also had a specific warning for: They are not immune from the coronavirus, either. "I can't afford the luxury of going back to my quarantined house, I have to go to work and do my part. You do yours, I ask you please," she wrote.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Tsion Firew is working alongside her colleagues in the New York Presbyterian hospital system in New York City —.
Firew has shared several posts about her coworkers. Like in Italy, New York's health care system is being. And, like Bonari, the health care professionals who work with Dr. Firew are exhausted.
"Dr. Nicholas Manice — knew him since his intern year," Firew tweeted, along with a photo of Manice. "He collected donations of PPEs & gowns to give to his colleagues."
Firew's post included a photo of Manice's goggle-imprinted face. He even had a bandage on the bridge of his nose, where his gear dug too deep. "Last week, this is Nick about to intubate a patient, only wearing a patient's gown because he couldn't find PPE and the goggles leave these marks on his face," Firew's post continued.
Firew has not only shed a light on her colleagues during this time, but she's also using her platform to raise awareness for the lack of PPE. She even changed her Twitter name to "Tsion #GetMePPE Firew."
Theis evident at many hospitals across the U.S. Sydney Lane, a nurse from Iowa, shared a selfie that shows her bruised and scratched-up face after wearing an N95 mask for 13 hours — the same mask she wore the day before for 12½ hours, she said.
"I broke down and cried today. I cried of exhaustion, of defeat. Because after 4 years of being an ER nurse, I suddenly feel like I know nothing." Lane's long, emotional post went viral and has gained almost 1 million likes in four days.
In London, an anesthesia registrar named Natalie Silvey also took a selfie of her creased, red face. "This is the face of someone who just spent 9 hours in personal protective equipment moving critically ill Covid19 patients around London," she wrote on Twitter on March 21. "I feel broken — and we are only at the start. I am begging people, please please do social distancing and self isolation."
The U.K. is currently the eighth most infected country, with more than 25,400 cases and more than 1,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In Brazil, nurse Amanda Ramalho posted a photo of her creased face, saying she and her colleagues are "exhausted and [hurt] and here in Brazil it's still just starting." There are currently some 4,700 coronavirus cases in Brazil — relatively low compared to other countries. However, there have also been more coronavirus deaths than recoveries there, according to Johns Hopkins.
Nicola Sgarbi went viral after he shared a selfie of his bruised face on Facebook. "After 13 hours in ICU after taking off all my protective devices, I took a selfie. I am not and I don't feel like a hero. I am a normal person, who loves his job and who, now more than ever, is proud to do it by giving all himself on the frontlines together with other wonderful people," he wrote.
Sgarbi, a medical worker in Italy, said he doesn't care how many hours he works, how much his back hurts or how tired he feels. "This will all pass," he said. "It will also pass thanks to you and your hard work and sacrifices. It will pass if we are united in one immense joint effort."