What do Italians think of rugby?

Ambulance instead of rugby: Maxime Mbanda is fighting Corona in Italy

Cologne / Parma - Maxime Mbanda has been working continuously for eight days. He rushes through Parma in the ambulance, from hospital to hospital, his shifts sometimes last 13 hours.

"I said to myself: You mustn't be tired," said the Italian rugby international, adding that the misery was too great for that. And that's exactly why the professional sits behind the wheel without any medical experience.

Actually, Mbanda should have played in Rome last weekend. In front of 60,000 spectators against England. But the corona crisis has changed everything, including his life. "When everything was canceled, I thought about how I could help," said the player from the local club Zebre Rugby AFP, who is now on the road for the Yellow Cross.

Rugby national player transports corona infected people

Instead of a jersey and shorts, Mbanda wears a protective suit and a mask, the Emilia-Romagna region has had a very hard time. The 26-year-old initially only transported supplies, food or brought recipes. Then, according to his own account, he was transferred "to the front line, to the heart of the problem".

Now Mbanda drives infected people from one clinic to the next. "I help with carrying or when patients have to be lifted out of a wheelchair," explains Mbanda, an easy one for a strong rugby player. He also carries oxygen tanks.

What he sees every day is shocking. Corona applies 95 percent of the attention in hospitals, "if people saw what I see, they would no longer queue in front of the supermarket".

On Saturday alone, 800 people died in Italy, almost 5000 are dead because of the pandemic. Mbanda sees sick people "of all ages. Doctors and nurses work for 20 to 22 hours".

Mbanda: "As long as I'm strong, I'll keep going"

It is the same with Mbanda's father, who works as a surgeon in Milan "also on the front line". He himself is challenged as a psychologist by the patients. "Even when they can't speak, they use their eyes to tell you things that are unimaginable." Because they hear the alarms, the doctors and the nurses when they run through the corridors.

"The first man I drove said that after a three-hour stay, his bed neighbor died. Two other women died in the room that night. He had never seen anyone die before," said Mbanda.

The career changer wants to comfort people. He literally shakes hands with them, even if he has to disinfect himself every time afterwards. Mbanda appeals to others that everyone can help. "Fear is normal. But there are little things that can give those on the front line a rest for half an hour or an hour."

Mbanda doesn't think about quitting: "As long as I am strong, I will continue. I am here and I will stay here."

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