'It changes you': Doctor describes how COVID-19 is splitting her from her family
Maria Michela D'Alessandro in Rome

The doctors on the front line of the battle against COVID-19 are having to confront dual challenges – living in isolation and working flat-out at the same time.

The struggles they face at work every day are obvious – dealing with emergency after emergency in overcrowded conditions, while having to wear cumbersome kit and observe complicated new hygiene protocols.

But the impact on their home lives is less visible to the outside world.

"I am a mother, I have a seven-year-old boy. I can't touch him, I can't play with him. We do homework but remotely, so we feel distant from each other," Monica Carfora, an emergency unit doctor at the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, Rome, told CGTN Europe.

She described how her sense that her work was part of her life now means the disease has become part of her, too. At home, she lives in a separate room from her husband and son and struggles to bridge the physical divide.

"The sense of belonging to my job and, therefore, also to this disease, it makes you understand that even if at home you have someone who encourages you. Unfortunately you think that it is not enough, that it is changing you."

At work, the enforced separation from patients is also a challenge. Carfora described a moment of crisis when a patient, subsequently diagnosed as suffering from COVID-19, hugged her after finding a chest x-ray initially came back clear. Since then, precautions have been strengthened.

"This certainly generates an uneasiness and a distance that is not part of my normal character or my work, because our work is based on empathy, touch, encouragement. On a relationship of closeness that, at this moment, is unfortunately not possible," Carfora said.

Nevertheless, she still looks forward to a time when life will return back to how it was before.

"There is clearly also hope and, let's say, a calculation of time," she notes. "It's like there's an inverted hourglass at home, with the feeling that this hourglass flows very slowly and in the opposite direction to what an hourglass usually represents."