Italian rugby flanker Maxime Mbanda volunteers as ambulance driver to help in his nation's hour of need

Maxime Mbanda has 18 caps for Italy (PA Images)
22:53pm, Tue 24 Mar 2020
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Italian rugby flanker Maxime Mbanda has been working 12-hour shifts as an ambulance driver to help the country tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Italy is the worst affected country in Europe with 63,297 confirmed cases and 6,077 deaths.

Mbanda plays for Northern Italian side Zebre, who's league is currently suspended due to the pandemic. The player was desperate to help his country in any way he could and so volunteered his services

He told AFP: "When everything was cancelled in rugby, I wondered how I could help, even without medical expertise.

"I started eight days ago, without a day's break and with shifts of 12 or 13 hours. But faced with what I see in the infectious disease rooms, I tell myself that I can't be tired. 

"Fear is normal. But there are little things that can be done safely that would give those on the front lines a half-hour or an hour's rest. For them, an hour is crucial. As long as I'm strong, I'll keep going. I'm here and I'm staying here. 

"I found the Yellow Cross, which had a transport service for medicine and food for the elderly. I found myself transferring positive patients from one local hospital to another. 

"I help with the stretcher or if there are patients to be carried from a wheelchair. I also hold the oxygen."

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Mbanda, who has 18 caps for Italy,  said: "If people saw what I see in the hospitals, there wouldn't be a queue in front of the supermarkets anymore. They would think two, three or four times before leaving home, even to go running.

"What I see are people of all ages, on respirators, on oxygen. Doctors and nurses on 20 or 22-hour shifts, not sleeping one minute of the day and just trying to get some rest the next day."