Sicily, Italy – The coronavirus is living in our apartment. More specifically, it is living in my partner Marta’s body: like a stone in the middle of her chest, lodged in her ribcage, making it difficult to breathe.These are relatively mild symptoms, we know. But a question hangs in the air of our home: will they suddenly worsen overnight?
Italy is one of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak, leaving the national health system unable to respond to all of the cases.
While my 69-year-old mother is being treated for it in hospital, along with other close friends and family, Marta is treated at home. Her doctor calls twice a day to check on her symptoms. When she first tests positive, he recommends that we order an oxygen saturation monitor from the local chemist. It quickly becomes our best friend.
“If the level is 95, everything is fine,” he tells us. “If it drops to 92, you need to run to the hospital.”My level is 99; hers is 98. But still, she feels as though she is wearing a bodice with the laces pulled tight. The doctor suggests sodium bicarbonate inhalations to clear her respiratory tract. She will also need an x-ray to check her lungs, but she cannot access a hospital and, since she has tested positive, she cannot enter a private clinic either.
Despite spending all my time with Marta, I test negative. The doctor suspects it is a false negative as I start to develop symptoms.
We stay at home, respecting the rules of self-isolation. We wear protective gear and sleep in separate beds. Every day, we clean the kitchen and bathroom. At least once a day, we open the windows to let some fresh air in. Friends bring us groceries and leave them outside our door.
We take our temperature, drink freshly squeezed orange juice and include the oxygen monitor in our daily regime.
People we met during our years reporting together in the Middle East send messages of love and solidarity. But with a daily death toll in Italy in the high hundreds, it is hard to keep our spirits up.
I am tested again. The virus seems to have spared me: I am still negative.
I decide to photograph the world’s biggest story from our small apartment.
Finally, some good news arrives when my mother is well enough to leave hospital and, gradually, Marta begins to breathe well again.