“I couldn’t believe it until I hugged him” – Italian respiratory specialist who recovered from COVID-19

This time last year the first cases of coronavirus began to appear in a small village in the north of Italy, with a population the equivalent of San Gwann’s. An Italian respiratory specialist told us that he was afraid that he too would become a victim of the virus but today the simplest things in life bring optimism, including embracing his baby son.

Every time Francesco Tursi lifts his six-month-old son Antonio into the air and catches him again, he realizes that he was at risk of not experiencing one of the best moments as a father.

On 21 February last year, the respiratory specialist at the hospital in the small village of Codogno had unexpectedly seen the first patient in Italy test positive for COVID- 19. The village with a population of 15,000 residents ended up being the capital of the first area in Europe which ended in a total lockdown.

Codogno and ten other villages in the Lombardy region ended up the hardest hit in Italy and had to be isolated from the rest of the world. The hospital in the same village could not keep up with the victims of COVID and health professionals did not know what to do and from where to start.

“We were overwhelmed without having a chance to think of patients who couldn’t breathe, and that literally changed our lives.”

In the first week nearly a thousand people were tested positive for the virus and 20 people died. Tursi, 47, began to experience fatigue and later began to feel severe chest pain. He tested positive for coronavirus and was treated at a hospital in Milan.

“I felt the world fall on me,” Francesco said.

While the death toll from the virus has continued to rise, the specialist said the virus began to consume him from within and on April 1 when he returned to work, all of Italy was in lockdown because the virus continued to spread in all regions.

When he fell ill with COVID, his wife Valentina was 5 months pregnant and he admitted that at that time he was afraid that the virus would kill him and he would never see his son. In July, his wife gave birth and made him a father for the first time.

“When I saw Antonio, I couldn’t believe it until I hugged him. When I did, I began to breathe again.”

A year later, little Antonio is now 6 and a half months old while Francesco Tursi is still caring for people who are COVID positive. He says he is determined to continue living for his son, his wife and for his patients.