Mauro Celli, shareholder of A.Celli Group, felt sick on February 24th, accusing high temperature and severe tiredness. Later he tested positive for COVID-19 and was transferred to the Infectious Disease Department of the Lucca hospital.
Below is the exclusive interview given by Mauro Celli himself to a local newspaper, following his recovery and discharge from hospital.
First of all, congratulations for finally passing a so difficult challenge.
Thank you. It is certainly a very hard test that I had never faced before, also because we are in front of a sly and unknown enemy.
Let's take a step back. When and how did this damned misadventure begin?
It believe that everything started on Friday, February 21th, during the anniversary of a dinner with old friends. This year, unfortunately, among these were people who came back from Milan. People that, unknowingly, had contracted the virus and transmitted it to us. However, I would like to underline that Italian’s first case alarm (Codogno) wasn’t still known, so there were still no restrictions such as those that were then issued.
When did you start feeling sick?
I was probably one of the first: from the evening of Tuesday 25th February I started to experience a strong malaise.
A very strong tiredness and exhaustion, complete zeroing of the senses of taste and smell, so much so that I stopped eating completely and I continued to drink only sweetened tea. Then I had a cough, a very dry and annoying cough. Then, five to six days later, the high fever started: between 38.5 and 39 degrees. I also suffered of breathing difficulties, not yet critical. In those days I tried to contact the numbers made available by the health authorities, but, not living or had been visiting any “red zone”, I did not have the characteristics to submit the Covid-19 swab test and this was a big issue for me.
A big issue? In what sense?
I was at home and I was sick. I contacted my family doctor following health regulations procedures but he wasn’t aware of the main characteristics of the Covid-19 and he treated me as if I were simple affected by a seasonal flu.
Instead, we understand, this is more than just a simple influenza
This is true. Those who say that Coronavirus is little more than a simple flu make a big mistake. That’s because it can manifest itself in an asymptomatic, light, medium, strong or very strong form, probably also depending on the subject being hit and the exposure that the individual has had with respect to the virus.
Mauro, when did you really understand that you could have contracted Coronavirus?
This is an important question. I noticed it when one of my friends who attended the dinner on February 21, called me saying that there were infected people among those who had taken part in the evening. It was Thursday, March 5 and right then I realized that I also had contracted the infection.
What was your first reaction, honestly?
I got worried. My first feelings were of concern and fear. I immediately contacted again my family doctor but he did not have the protective tools and equipment to visit me so, therefore, I remained at the mercy of myself. I was at home, I was very sick and nobody cared for me. I understood that the first priority was to get a swab test, maybe at home, so I started to call all designated structures to do so but it was not easy because there was already a high demand for swab tests. Finally I was able to get the test on Friday 6 March to have the result the day after, but unfortunately I did not received any feedback.
An hellish weekend?
Absolutely! So much so that on Sunday morning, having a high temperature and a worrying general clinical situation, I called the emergency medical services. Then I was transferred to the local hospital first aid where they diagnosed me a pneumonia in progress. I was immediately hospitalized in isolation at the infectious disease department.
How did you feel during this period of care and isolation?
I was alone in my room. I've always been alone. Psychologically it was a strong transition but I had to commit and strive to try to heal. I hoped that, being finally hospitalized, the doctors could improve my health condition, even through rather strong therapies.
Excuse me, but didn't pneumonia go away on your own?
I don't think so. If I hadn't been hospitalized I would have ended up in breathing difficulties and my path would have been much more difficult. They gave me antivirals already used in the past to fight HIV infection and then antibiotics and other medicines. Above all, the most important treatment taken, was to wear oxygen mask 24 hours a day, day and night.
Can your experience be of help to other people who are facing what you have suffered?
I really think so. I would like to say to those who, unfortunately, find themselves fighting this virus, that there is both hope and a real chance to heal even if it is a very difficult path that tests the person both physically and psychologically. Fortunately, I did not have severe breathing difficulties and only for this reason I avoided intensive care. Unfortunately, other people and even friends close to me had to go through intensive care which is an even more delicate transition. So, I think I was, in the misfortune of being probably one of the first to have contracted the virus in Tuscany, even lucky.
Mauro, you are a business man. Your organizations employs many workers. The measures taken by the government have prompted many companies to temporarily close their doors. The Italian economy is in crisis and many commercial, tourist, restaurant and other activities have lowered the shutters. In your opinion, how can we face this economically so devastating period? Does it make sense to stay home and not go to work for an indefinite period?
Thank you for the question because, believe me, it is of fundamental importance. The priority is rightly to preserve the health of people and workers. My hope is that slowly, at the government level, companies will be allowed, equipped and prepared with the necessary prevention tools to protect the health of workers both in the production departments and in the offices, to resume activities gradually, involving, perhaps in shifts, groups of workers, but allowing to restart. And this also applies to commercial activities. They will have to study systems to be able to restart and get back on track because the risks of a devastating economic crisis are just as dangerous as the spread of the virus that we are facing these days. I would like to make an appeal to trade associations so that everyone, at this moment, has a sense of responsibility to preserve work: companies, commercial activities, VAT numbers and all those activities that allow our country to go ahead and be the second largest manufacturing nation in Europe and one of the first in the world. As A. Celli Group we are also proceeding with a collection of donations among our employees and, of course, the company will do its part to be able to donate the life-saving equipment to the infectious disease department of the San Luca hospital to thank the professionalism and care with which they faced the emergency of these days.
Once out of this hell, can you tell us the three things you did first to resume everyday life?
I just got home. Obviously the greatest joy was to embrace family members. Then I took a shower and a walk in the garden trying to breathe fresh air that I had been missing for two weeks.