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Man with ALS wanted to give backup respirator to coronavirus patients, inspiring donations

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One man’s generous offer is encouraging others to give as much as they can.

With so many of our brothers and sisters dying from respiratory failure caused by the novel coronavirus, perhaps only those who have personally experienced breathing difficulties, or who have seen their loved ones die this way, can fully understand the suffering this kind of death entails.

When I think of the situation in northern Italy, I think of my grandfather, who died a similar death two years ago. He had pneumonia, which he fought until his last breath even though he was 92 years old, struggling for air for almost a month.

The generosity of Piero, who suffers from ALS

It’s this kind of personal experience that can help us fully appreciate the extreme generosity of a 57-year-old man from Piedmont (northern Italy), Piero Floreno, who has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and wanted to make a sacrifice to help others.

This is how his wife Antonella tells the story (as reported in Italian news outlet La Repubblica):

“This is my husband. We’ve been together for 40 years, and he’s always been this way. But yesterday morning he surprised even me: He told me he wanted to donate his second respirator to the hospitals, for coronavirus patients.”

She was petrified.

“I know he obviously didn’t want to remove his respirator—the main one—and I wouldn’t have let him. But he wanted to donate the spare one, which is in the house ready to be used in case of emergency, and which we rotate into use every two or three months,” she told La Reppublica.

Piero is aware of the enormous difficulties that hospitals in northern Italy are facing due to the shortage of these machines, which are essential for the survival of the patients with the worst cases of COVID-19. In that light, he wrote these words to a friend of his, quoted by La Repubblica:

“In Italy there are between four and six thousand ALS patients, and a large percentage have two respirators. I’m sure that if this idea could reach them, many would give up their second respirator for a few months to help their fellow man.”

Piero’s offer cannot be accepted, because a person with ALS must have two respirators, as his life would be in extreme danger if one of them malfunctioned. But this gesture of extraordinary generosity has inspired many people to become more aware of the problem and to take action. In fact, as Antonella explains, “Many neighbors got involved today with a fundraiser to try to buy a machine together and donate it.”

Unfortunately, we know that the hospital shortage of these machines isn’t so much a problem of finances as of supply; it’s mainly due to the enormous difficulty of finding and buying them on the international market, as the pandemic spread of the virus is motivating all countries to keep their equipment for themselves. This bitter reality makes it even more imperative for us to work together to slow down the spread of the epidemic and thus—by limiting the number of those infected—prevent many of our most seriously ill brothers and sisters from dying because they don’t have every means to fight for their lives due to the lack of respirators.

Today, loving our neighbor as ourselves must also be translated into, “Even though I feel like I’m in prison, I’m going to stay at home.” Our life and that of others depends on a lucid and responsible renunciation of our freedom of movement for a time. In the end, the right to life is paramount.

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