The book, titled ‘Traces,’ is a collection of testimonies and photographic portraits of the staff of the Brussels Iris Sud hospitals collected after the shock of the first wave of the pandemic.
Nearly 200 nurses, doctors, cleaners and administrative staff have opened up about their experiences, bundled in 172 pages.
“These testimonies are powerful, varied and simple,” said Caroline Lamarche, who compiled the texts. “It is a complete collection: extreme dedication, fighting spirit, solidarity, pain and sorrow…”
“There are small bursts of legitimate anger because we do not take enough care of the carers,” she said. “We have been fed statistics and the words of specialists, but these stories from the hospital give another dimension to the case.”
A surgical nurse spoke about the increased connection with dying patients. “I found myself providing end-of-life care. It was impossible not to connect with these elderly people, who are not allowed visitors.”
“We have plenty of memories of people who knew they were going to die, who did not want to go to intensive care to make room for younger people, and who really left with incredible dignity,” a lung doctor and head of the Covid unit said.
The artists involved were sensitive to the emotion being conveyed, and the participants spent hours under the lens of photographer Gaël Turine.
“Compared to what happened in the studio, I think I am still very much in touch with it,” he said. “It was an extremely absorbing project, very important I think from a societal point of view, the collaboration was extremely strong.”
“I think that there is a political responsibility behind this and that we are sending a sensitive message to them,” said Jean Spinette, president of the board of directors of the Iris Sud hospitals.
The book was published on Tuesday by Luc Pire and is available for €35 in bookshops and via the website www.tracescovid.be, which tells the story of the project and shares extracts.
The Brussels Times