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Exhausted doctors and nurses post images of their bruised faces after long shifts wearing protective gear

Urgent calls to help doctors and nurses
First-hand accounts from health care workers battling coronavirus 01:57

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."

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Sono i un'infermiera e in questo momento mi trovo ad affrontare questa emergenza sanitaria. Ho paura anche io, ma non di andare a fare la spesa, ho paura di andare a lavoro. Ho paura perché la mascherina potrebbe non aderire bene al viso, o potrei essermi toccata accidentalmente con i guanti sporchi, o magari le lenti non mi coprono nel tutto gli occhi e qualcosa potrebbe essere passato. Sono stanca fisicamente perché i dispositivi di protezione fanno male, il camice fa sudare e una volta vestita non posso più andare in bagno o bere per sei ore. Sono stanca psicologicamente, e come me lo sono tutti i miei colleghi che da settimane si trovano nella mia stessa condizione, ma questo non ci impedirà di svolgere il nostro lavoro come abbiamo sempre fatto. Continuerò a curare e prendermi cura dei miei pazienti, perché sono fiera e innamorata del mio lavoro. Quello che chiedo a chiunque stia leggendo questo post è di non vanificare lo sforzo che stiamo facendo, di essere altruisti, di stare in casa e così proteggere chi è più fragile. Noi giovani non siamo immuni al coronavirus, anche noi ci possiamo ammalare, o peggio ancora possiamo far ammalare. Non mi posso permettere il lusso di tornarmene a casa mia in quarantena, devo andare a lavoro e fare la mia parte. Voi fate la vostra, ve lo chiedo per favore.

A post shared by Alessia Bonari (@alessiabonari_) on

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 young people: 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 — another hotspot for coronavirus.

Firew has shared several posts about her coworkers. Like in Italy, New York's health care system is being overrun by coronavirus. 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."

The lack of PPE is 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.

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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. Because my face hurts after wearing an N95 for 13 fucking hours, which happens to be the same N95 I wore yesterday for 12.5 hours, and the same one from all last week. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the statement “but this is what you signed up for”. Just, no. I signed up to take care of sick patients, yes. I did not sign up to be unprotected by their sickness (although my hospital is busting their asses to try to protect us). I did not sign up to be yelled at by angry patients because our government failed to be prepared. I did not sign up to risk mine and my family’s health and safety because people wanted to go on their vacations after they said NOT to. An ER nurse in New York died today of COVID-19. He was in his 40s and had very mild asthma. That’s it. This is not just a tall tale, this is the real risk. I have to go into every patient’s room and in the back of my mind I think “this could be the patient that gets me sick... that kills me”. “This could be the patient that gives me the virus I bring home to my children or asthmatic husband”. This is my new reality. But this is only the beginning. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the impact of what this illness is going to make on our country. And I’m scared.

A post shared by Sydni Lane | BSN, RN (@sydvic1ous) on

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."

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