Zebre’s Maxime Mbanda should have been running out in front of a 60,000-plus attendance last weekend at Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
However, instead of representing Italy in the Guinness Six Nations against England, the match was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak and the back row was busy with action of a very different kind – wearing a face mask and a full protective suit in the fight against the deadly virus that has brought Italy to a standstill.
Freddie Burns takes RugbyPass through his fitness regime during the coronavirus lockdown
With rugby suspended, Mbanda has temporarily taken up with a new team, driving an ambulance alongside the volunteers of the Parma Yellow Cross in Emilia-Romagna, one of the Italian regions most affected by the pandemic.
In an AFP interview published on rugbyrama.fr, Mbanda explained why he went out helping on the front line with his country in lockdown due to the virus that continues to kill a huge amount of Italian people.
“When everything was cancelled with rugby, I wondered how I could help even without medical skills,” explained the 26-year-old who had represented Italy on 20 occasions. “I found the Yellow Cross, which had a transport service for medicines and food for the elderly.”
However, Mbanda quickly moved from delivering masks, food and medical prescriptions as his physical strength was put to more effective use, the transportation of patients.
“I found myself transferring positive patients from one hospital in the region to another. I help with the stretcher or if there are patients to carry from a wheelchair. I also hold the oxygen.
“Ninety-five per cent of hospital structures are devoted to patients with coronavirus. If people saw what I see in hospitals, there would no longer be a line in front of the supermarkets. They would think about it two, three or four times before leaving their house, even to go for a run.
“What I see are people of all ages on respirators, on oxygen, doctors and nurses on duty at 8 or 10pm who do not sleep a minute of the day and who are just trying to get some rest the next day. I wish I could say that the situation here is at the limit, but I’m afraid I have to say that this is no longer the case.
“The agenda is death. When you see their eyes … even if patients cannot speak, they communicate with the eyes and they tell you things that you cannot imagine.
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Il mio KIT e la mia SQUADRA ai tempi del COVID-19. @seirs.crocegialla.parma ? Un consiglio: SE SEI GIOVANE, NON VIVI CON ANZIANI O PERSONE CON MALATTIE PREGRESSE E PROPRIO NON RIESCI A STARE IN CASA CON LE MANI IN MANO, PROVA A FARE UNA CHIAMATA ALLA PUBBLICA ASSISTENZA ANPAS DELLA TUA CITTÀ’, POTREBBERO AVERE BISOGNO DI TE! ?
“They hear the alarms, the doctors and nurses who run from one department to another. The first person I got out of the hospital told me that he had arrived three hours ago when his next-door neighbour died. And during the night, two other women died in her room. He had never seen anyone die.
“You have to behave with these patients as if they are relatives. But the terrible thing is that each time you touch them, a simple caress in the ambulance to comfort them, you must immediately disinfect your hands.
“I started eight days ago, without a break and with twelve or 13-hour rotations. But faced with what I see in the infectious disease rooms, I tell myself that I cannot be tired.
“Fear is normal. But there are little things that can be done safely that would offer half an hour or an hour of rest to those on the front line. For them, an hour is essential.
“As long as I have strength, I will continue. I am there and I stay there. As long as there is an emergency, I stay there.”
WATCH: Jim Hamilton is joined on The Lockdown by Ian McKinley to discuss the effects the coronavirus outbreak is having on the everyday life of a player living in Italy
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