Project Detail: Awakenings


IBSA Foundation Covid19




Stefano Schirato



Project Info


After two months of lockdown, Italy has been in phase 2 since May 4th, which involves reopening and general restarting of some businesses. There has been a significant increase in the number of recoveries, but the virus is always lurking, and the tests are the only weapons to track it. We are in Abruzzo, but we could be in any other part of the globe affected by SARS-CoV2. Here are some stories of the miracle that happens when the disease is defeated: the awakening after being intubated.

Awakenings is a work I shot in spring 2020, when Italy was coping with the first lockdown due to Covid-19 emergency.
On those days tv programs broadcasted images of coffins and funerals with no familiar faces around, of wrecked medical personnel, of a whole country bent on its knee. We all felt so overwhelmed by the situation there was no space in our mind and in our lives but for grief and sorrow.
By the time I started the project, more than 30,000 Italians had died from COVID-19—the highest death toll in the European Union—but over 100,000 people had recovered. Hospitalizations had been declining since the third week of April.
I therefore understood that a positive message might have been useful and powerful. So I decided to report on the survivors, on those who did it, on gaining a chance of salvation after finding oneself one step before death.
The project tells the story of patients from the Intensive Care Unit and Infectious Diseases Unit at S. Spirito Hospital in Pescara, my town.
Most of them suffered from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which causes a person’s respiratory rate to double as the level of oxygen (O2) in the blood decreases. Often, the only solution is intubation—sometimes for weeks—to let the lungs rest.
Many of them, panicked and afraid of not waking up, made what they feared might be a final call to a loved one. “Unlike others, COVID patients who need to be intubated are lucid and aware. They think about their family members. It is a very touching moment and we take part in that pain every time.” said Antonella Frattari, the head of intensive care at the Santo Spirito hospital in Pescara.
They all had been intubated, spent weeks in a coma, then woke up and were finally discharged to come back to their houses and to the hug of their families.
I felt that hugs and welcome home are pretty much the same in every country, in every family, and that these local stories could actually speak for all.