The Wall Street Journal - 28.03.2020 - 29.03.2020

(singke) #1

A10| Saturday/Sunday, March 28 - 29, 2020 **** THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

Italian therapist Ivo Cilesi and his partner Giovanna Lucchelli before he suddenly took ill; below,
Iranian photojournalist Aitai Shakibafar stands inside a home that was destroyed by flooding.


struction to running his own
restaurant in South America,
enjoying a global lifestyle once
incomprehensible for his fa-
ther, a Hungarian who grew up
under Communist dictator-
Previously, the elder Mr.
Szabo had been able to speak
to his daughter-in-law only in
short messages typed into
Google translate, each Portu-
guese-Hungarian exchange full
of humorous errors.
The family had spent two
days at the home of Mr. Szabo,
a retired truck driver, when
Gabor developed a fever, sore
throat and cough. He visited a
hospital that sent him back to
his father’s house without
testing for coronavirus. The
ailment cleared up.
On Feb. 23, the elder Mr.
Szabo noticed he had the same
symptoms. “There is nothing
wrong, these are just side ef-
fects of chemotherapy,” he
told the couple.

With infections of the re-
cently named Covid-19 disease
surging in Italy, authorities
had begun quarantining towns
in the country’s wealthy north.
Ivo Cilesi thought he might
still manage to make a quick
road trip from his apartment
outside Milan to Genoa, the
seaside town of his youth.
A renowned therapist, he
had pioneered a technique of
treating dementia patients
with imaginary train rides,

earning the nickname Dr.
Train. Nursing homes tended
to inject these elderly full of
sedatives. Instead, he helped
them cope with music or dolls,
aiming to bring dignity to the
people society tended to shove
He and his partner had al-
ready packed their bags for a
long weekend, when on Feb.
26 he found himself strangely
exhausted. “Why go to the
beach,” he said, “if we’re just

and office towers, had been in-
structed to wear face masks
on the job.
Governments were calling it
the novel coronavirus. Over
the next two months, it would
spread widely, carried by the
most-connected human popu-
lation in history to all corners
of the world.
In this era of globalization,
families scattered across con-
tinents would watch from afar
with confusion, dread and
helpless foreboding as their
loved ones fought a disease
the world knew very little
It would upend five lives,
all exposed to the virus as it
traveled from country to coun-
try, week after week.
But before all that, on the
afternoon of Feb. 8, Mr.
Sarker’s coronavirus test came
back. It was positive.

In Paris, dining on truffle
ravioli and the first oysters of
his life, Gabor Szabo and his
Brazilian wife wondered if
they should be worried about
the sickness that had arrived

in Europe. It was Feb. 16, their
seventh anniversary, and they
were a long way from home,
Rio de Janeiro. The couple
would soon fly to Hungary to
spend time with Gabor’s dad, a
cancer patient.
Battling lymphoma at age
70, Albert Szabo was eager to
get to know the daughter-in-
law he had recently met for
the first time. For years, the
family had drifted apart. Ga-
bor chased jobs from con-


Five Lives


By Crisis

‘I can hardly breathe,
I can hardly breathe.’

Ivo Cilesi’s panicked call for help before an ambulance arrived

As the new coronavirus
forces big changes in how we
work, The Wall Street Jour-
nal is look-
ing at how
people are
coping with
the stresses and risks. For
earlier articles in the series,

Maddisen Maxwell’s High-
land Park, N.J., hair salon has
seen tough times. Michael B
Hair & Style opened its doors
in December 2008, during the
throes of the Great Recession.
A van rammed into the store-
front years later, prompting it
to close for months while re-
pairs took place.
Turmoil created by the cor-
onavirus pandemic is more
stressful than those early tri-
als. Tough as it is, the 41-year-
old stylist can’t let it sink her
“Obviously we can’t do hair
virtually,” Ms. Maxwell said by

phone earlier this week. “But
we’re trying to find what as-
pects of our brick-and-mortar
business we can take online.”
After years of thinking about
ways to branch out into digital
services, the crisis is forcing
her hand.
On Thursday, a week after
closing the salon as cancella-
tions had been piling up, she
turned it into a studio. She
used a gray screen, lights and
an iPhone camera to shoot a
video tutorial on washing and
maintaining curly hair. She per-
formed on a mannequin to ad-
here to social-distancing norms.
A hair stylist for over 20
years, Ms. Maxwell is hopeful
her online offerings will meet
enough demand to supplement
at least some of the lost reve-
nue that can come from a $
blowout and style or a $
weave during normal times. A
majority of her clients are Afri-
can-Americans who she says
rely on getting their hair styled
professionally as opposed to
doing it themselves. She hopes
e-consultations can help.

“They’re really struggling
trying to figure out what to
do,” she said.
Ms. Maxwell started sens-
ing a few weeks ago there
would be demand for services
outside the salon. Before the
pandemic worsened, some
women were asking her to do
home visits. Last week, New
Jersey said salons needed to
temporarily close to help pre-
vent the virus from spreading.
Yet clients still need their
hair done. Based on feedback
from clients, she intends to of-
fer half-hour FaceTime consul-
tations for $50 to those who
want help while coloring or
styling their hair from home.
In addition, she is packag-
ing and selling products like
shampoo and moisture masks
in what she is branding as
beauty boxes that go for as
much as $150. Shortly after
launching the boxes she sold
three of them.
Ms. Maxwell still has a lot
of headaches to sort out. Her
four employees, for example,
remain on the salon’s books

and she hopes to keep paying
them with government stimu-
lus money.
Even with the innovation
and government help, her
business needs to make dras-
tic changes. She plans to
eventually cancel the salon’s
current lease, saving $4,000 a
month that had been going
toward rent. She is merging
with her sister’s salon a few
towns away.
“It was the only way for us
to keep moving forward,” she
said. If she had tried to main-

tain the status quo for a few
more weeks, Michael B Hair &
Style would have gone out of
business. “This at least lets me
Ms. Maxwell and her hus-
band, Dalles, are co-owners of
the salon, and have three chil-
dren at home. Mr. Maxwell’s
mother and aunt, both retired
teachers, are helping their
three children—ages 7, 10 and
17—with distance learning at
home. That has freed Mr. Max-
well to focus on a few side
gigs to keep bills paid while

the salon is closed.
He has been working with a
meal-prep startup focused on
healthy eating. And a carpen-
ter on the side, he recently
started a contracting business
with a few kitchen and bath-
room projects for friends and
neighbors who allowed him in
their homes despite concerns
over coronavirus.
“I wanted to start it for
years. Now it’s in high gear,”
he said. “I’m starting with
small projects, that’s getting
some money coming in.”


Maddisen Maxwell dried a mannequin’s hair at her salon in Highland Park, New Jersey on Thursday.



going to be stuck inside be-
cause I’m not feeling well.”
They stayed home.
At breakfast on Friday, Mr.
Cilesi suddenly panicked. “I
can hardly breathe, I can
hardly breathe,” he gasped.
“Relax, what’s going on?”
his partner asked.
As she dialed Italy’s 112
emergency number, a thought
struck her: He wasn’t protest-
ing her call for an ambulance.
He was shaking.

The doctor said 10% of Aitai
Shakibafar’s lungs were dam-
aged. She quickly became a
suspect for the new disease
that was spreading rapidly
through her country, Iran.
Twice, Ms. Shakibafar had
coughed up blood in her
hands, her nails still painted
with the Minnie Mouse icon
from the beauty salon where
the 30-year-old wondered if
she’d caught it.
A female photojournalist in
a male-dominated industry,
Ms. Shakibafar was often the
only woman snapping pictures
from the scene of a disaster.
Rather than join her sister in
Canada, she preferred to take
her camera to far-flung cor-
ners of their home country
reeling from floods and eco-
nomic deprivation.
At dusk on March 5, Ms.
Shakibafar lay down in the
back seat of her car with her
father behind the wheel, rac-
ing through the streets of Teh-
ran. The hospital waiting-room
was teeming with people. But
medical staff saw she was hav-
ing trouble breathing.
As she was being admitted
to the intensive-care unit, she
felt faint. Someone got her a

Washington, D.C.
The same day, Liza Paqueo,
a specialist in urban forest
programs at the U.S. Forest
Service in Washington, D.C.,
was surprised to see missed
FaceTime calls from her
mother in the Philippine capi-
tal Manila, where it was well
past midnight.

The two spoke every day,
often more than once. Her
mother sometimes called in
the middle of the night to
nudge Liza to play her turn on
Words With Friends, an online
Scrabble-like game the two
competed fiercely on. Her
mother had last made D-O-L-T
for 36 points, followed by H-O-
A-X by Liza. It was her
mother’s turn.
That day, though, the call
was about something else. Her
mother, Nida Cortes Paqueo,
was in a hospital bed. An X-
ray showed she had pneumo-
nia in her right lung. Liza was
shocked, but didn’t think it
could be the novel coronavi-
rus. There were still only a
limited number of cases in the
Philippines, and U.S. figures
were just starting to grow.
Besides, her mother took
long walks, danced the rumba
with friends she had known
for half a century and, while

tigue for a few days, nothing
seemed especially alarming.
Mrs. Paqueo had enjoyed a
steak dinner for her 67th
birthday a few days earlier.
Now in the hospital, she
was losing her appetite. Mrs.
Paqueo asked family members
to bring her fruit and a salty
shrimp dish. But when they
did, she would often not eat.
Liza scolded her mother, so
on FaceTime, Mrs. Paqueo
showed her she was eating
bread and sausage.
“Good job,” Liza said. “Now
don’t ask for your usual Coke
Zero. You need calories.” she
added, making her mother
laugh, then cough.

A doctor and an ambulance
crew stormed through the
door of Giovanna Lucchelli’s
apartment outside Milan. Her
partner, the therapist col-

leagues called Dr. Train, was
struggling to breathe.
Medics fitted an airway
pressure-release ventilator
onto his face. At the hospital,
Ms. Lucchelli paced the corri-
dor while her partner van-
ished into an X-ray room. A
chest scan showed he had pro-
gressed to pneumonia. Doctors
thought: coronavirus. They
carried Mr. Cilesi, by now un-
conscious, into an isolation
ward, closed off to all but a
strained crew of physicians
racing to handle the influx.
They would have to wait
and see if his oxygen levels
crept up.
Ms. Lucchelli returned
home for the evening, expect-
ing the hospital to call. Nor-
mally, when the two weren’t
together, Mr. Cilesi dialed
many times daily, or called her
sister if she didn’t answer.
“Make sure your phone is al-
ways charged so I can reach
you anytime,” he would say.
The next morning, the doc-
tor gave her the news. The
test was positive for coronavi-
rus. Mr. Cilesi was taken to a
larger hospital, and given ex-
perimental-drug treatments
and muscle relaxants to pre-
vent chest damage. Tubed into
a high-performance ventilator,
he was rolled onto his belly to
give his lungs room to expand.
Every time she dialed the
hospital helpline for updates,
the doctors were too busy, the
staff stressed. She wondered
where her partner had con-
tracted coronavirus, maybe in
one of the three hospitals
where he worked, in between
a life of research and medical
conferences abroad.
Friends of Ms. Lucchelli
told her not to worry. Mr.
Cilesi was relatively young,
full of energy and strong like
his father. This is like the flu,
well-wishers said, and he
would recover. Only the very
old and very sick don’t, they

At Albert Szabo’s cancer-re-
lated checkups in Hungary,
physicians chalked up his high
temperature to lymphoma
complications. But by March 5,
he was exhausted and could
eat nothing more than a few
bites of a banana or tangerine.
When he told a doctor he was
struggling to breathe, confu-
sion shot through the room.
“Why didn’t you start with
that?” the doctor asked,
scouring his medical history
for an explanation.
Hospital staff fit Mr. Szabo
with an oxygen mask while the
doctor worked on a diagnosis.
Maybe it was a postsurgery
pulmonary embolism? he won-
Then Mr. Szabo’s son Gabor
mentioned the possibility of
coronavirus. It hadn’t been
their first thought, but medics
rushed into action, putting on
face masks and scrambling to
protect themselves. The elder
Mr. Szabo was frightened and
numb as medical staff carried
him away, his face obscured by
the oxygen mask. Normally,
the tough old man would have
said a few defiant words, his
son thought.
Two days later, Gabor got a
call from a brother elsewhere
in Hungary: “They were just
saying on TV that our father is
the fifth patient in Hungary
Baby items sent by Raju Sarker to his wife in Bangladesh. Pleaseturntothenextpage


Hair Stylist’s Survival Plan

Is to Build a Digital Salon

Free download pdf