While the world is seemingly under arrest due to the necessity of stopping the coronavirus propagation, healthcare workers have been more active than ever. In fact, they are at the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, constantly risking their health to save others.

One such couple that saw their plans changed and their lives looking a whole lot different was Roberto Tonelli and his fiancé, Ivana Castaniere, who were planning a wedding in their hometown of Moderna, Italy – until a global pandemic hit.

Now they are fighting the coronavirus pandemic from the front lines.

They met at the hospital

Roberto and Ivana are both pulmonologists–lung specialists–who work at the same hospital. In fact, they even met in their place of work

We first met in the hospital. She was my boss!

Roberto Tonelli to TIME.

Ivana jokes that when she first met him, she “didn’t like him that much” as he was a “know-it-all nerd.”

Of course, the circumstances of their meeting were drastically different. “After the first day, we understood we had never seen anything quite like this,” they revealed. Now needed more than ever, the couple work relentlessly six days a week, for as much as 14 hours a day.

They’ve put their wedding plans on hold to save lives.

“The worst part of this is that you don’t want the person you love to see what you’re seeing,” he says. “But at least her face is the first thing I see when I remove my PPE.”

They now face danger and death every day

Afraid of infection, Ivana admits that she takes “shallow breaths,” afraid that breathing deeply could increase her risks.

Working with your partner is one thing, but they often see family members coming into the hospital as patients as well. Indeed, the dangers of contagion is that it is transmitted first to our loved ones.

“Our first patients in Modena were two brothers,” Ivana explains. They recently hospitalized a 13-year-old girl. A few days later, her dad was wheeled into the ICU.

Patients are often isolated. Understandably, they are unable to get visits from their loved ones.

They ask me, will I die? I never lie to my patients. I tell them, ‘we’re fighting this together.’

Roberto Tonelli to TIME

A daughter of their own

The pandemic has been deadly to Italy, which so far records 8 215 deaths and over 80 000 cases of infected individuals. Needless to say that the healthcare system, and its workers, have been under constant stress. More than 4000 doctors and nurses have been infected in the line of duty.

As of today, 37 Italian doctors have died due to the virus.

Roberto and his fiancee are exposed to the risk every day. And like everyone else, they know what it’s like to miss their family. They have a 2-year-old daughter who is currently staying with grandparents. They haven’t seen her in over a month.

They want her to know one thing:

I hope that when she grows up, she’ll consider us her heroes. I hope she’ll understand.

Ivana Castaniere

How can we help our healthcare workers?

It’s important to take a moment to appreciate and celebrate our healthcare workers, wherever we are. The best way to help them is by reducing the risk of propagating the disease, that is by observing the rules of self-isolation and social distancing.

You can check out the Facebook page, Diaries From The Field, which documents the struggles and experiences of nurses from all over the world, as they fight this pandemic together. It is imperative, now more than ever, to be considerate to our healthcare workers and stick together in the fight against this disease.

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