CAORSO, Italy (AP) — Wearing full-body protective gear, Dr. Luigi Cavanna visits his patients in their homes in small towns and rural areas in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.
The peaceful countryside setting may be different from the crowded city hospitals, but the disease is the same.
He checks his patients’ oxygen levels, uses ultrasound to scan their lungs and tests them and their relatives for COVID-19. Many of them don’t need to or don’t want to be taken to a hospital and are grateful to Cavanna for coming to see them in their homes.
“It is priceless when the sick ask us what they owe us. They want to give us a reward, but their gratefulness and their sense of feeling cared for is what rewards us immensely,” Cavanna told Associated Press journalists following him on a round of house calls.
At 70, he could have retired in March but decided to keep on working as doctors were in high demand in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 60,000 dead.
“Some would say, ‘why are you there taking risks? because while this virus can be problematic for the younger people, for the older it can be very dangerous,'” the doctor said. “In the end I didn’t make any self-protection calculations. I just tried to work like I always have.”
Like other Italian doctors making house calls, he says there’s a more intimate relationship with patients when you see them in their homes. He also feels he’s helping the hospitals by freeing up space for patients who can’t receive treatment at home.
Dr. Mauro Morganti, who works in neighboring Lombardy, the Italian region that has recorded the most positive cases, has made house calls since 1996.
As the pandemic surged in Lombardy in the spring, he was “terrified like everyone” and at times hesitant about visiting patients in their homes.
But when two of his patients died, he felt a renewed sense of commitment.
“I was quite traumatized by the fact I hadn’t been there for them, I hadn’t seen them,” he said.
“I chose to take a few more risks, but attend to my patients personally,” he said. “And I think it’s better this way.”