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Back to the front: Chinese medical workers return to work after recovering from infection

(People's Daily Online)    11:21, March 06, 2020

Medical workers have become warriors fighting on the front line of China’s battle against the novel coronavirus, where some have become casualties themselves. What’s so admirable about these medical workers is that they have immediately returned to work after recovering.

Many Chinese medical staff resolutely set out for battle with the attitude: “It’s no big deal if I’m taken down by the virus; I can stand up again”. And if they are unfortunately infected with the virus, they tell themselves, “It will be a great encouragement for my patients if I can return to them”.

Zhou Ning

“If I can save just one patient, it will be worth it.”

Zhou Ning at work. (File photo)

“As a doctor, I must try my best to treat those severely ill and critical patients. If I can save just one patient, it will be worth it,” Zhou Ning, a doctor in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus epidemic, said when asked about why he was returning to the front line after recovering from novel coronavirus pneumonia.

Zhou is the deputy director of the department of cardiology in Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan. He started to show the symptoms of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus four days after receiving a patient suspected of infection on Jan. 17.

Zhou voluntarily put himself under home quarantine when his symptoms appeared. Using his medical knowledge, Zhou treated himself with pharmacotherapy and made sure he had plenty of rest during his home quarantine. These measures proved effective, and he gradually recovered.

After his recovery, Zhou wrote of his experience in an article telling people how to fight the disease during home quarantine, which was quickly forwarded many times on WeChat Moments.

“I still believe that we will definitely defeat the virus as long as we unite as one and fight the epidemic in solidarity,” Zhou wrote in the article.

On Feb. 10, when his quarantine ended, Zhou had no hesitation in returning to his post.

“My hospital was worried that I might not be able to handle the work. But as a designated hospital for treating severely and critically ill patients, we are shorthanded. Treating diseases and saving patients are a doctor’s most important responsibilities,” Zhou said.

Yuan Haitao

“I still worry about my patient.”

Yuan Haitao at work. (File photo)

On Feb. 21, Yuan Haitao, director of the department of critical care medicine at the Dongxihu District People’s Hospital in Wuhan, took off his hospital gown and put on a medical protective suit immediately after he had returned to health.

“I just want to bring the experience I gained from the treatment of my own disease to work as soon as possible,” he said. Yuan, 44, has been a doctor for nearly 20 years.

On Jan. 14, Yuan’s hospital received a novel coronavirus pneumonia patient who was critically ill and had to be transferred to an intensive care unit (ICU) after receiving a trachea cannula, which meant the viruses in the patient’s airway could easily come out and infect others.

“I have to take the risk,” Yuan said decisively. The day after he came into close contact with the patient, Yuan’s body temperature rose to 39 degrees Celsius. Three days later, he was hospitalized. Two weeks later, his condition deteriorated, and he had to be transferred to the ICU of Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital.

Yuan’s condition was so serious that his wife had to sign a written notice of his critical condition from the hospital. After hearing the news, Yuan’s good friend Hu Ming, who is the director of the department of critical care medicine at Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital, sobbed uncontrollably. The scene was captured by media and spread online, causing widespread anxiety among netizens.

Luckily, Yuan’s condition gradually improved. As soon as he felt better, while still in ICU, he started to treat his patient remotely from hospital.

Despite his close call, he constantly asked his colleges about the condition of the patient he had treated before his own infection, and even got an examination report so that he could continue to treat the patient.

“I still worry about my patient,” Yuan said during his hospitalization. During this period, he kept thinking about how he could improve the treatment of the patient he received before he himself was infected by the virus.

Yuan was later comforted to know that the patient he had worried about so much had improved and even managed to breathe without the use of a respirator.

Wu Junye

“My experience of being infected with the virus helps me better understand them.”

Wu Junye and her patient. (Photo/Chen Shu)

“I’ve had it too. And now I’m alright. Your four daughters are waiting for you at home.” These were the words that Wu Junye, a nurse at the department of otolaryngology in Wuhan Third Hospital, used to comfort a 78-year-old female patient while feeding her with a spoon.

Wu became infected while nursing a novel coronavirus pneumonia patient, and was diagnosed with the disease on Jan. 30. After her recovery and the end of her quarantine, she asked to return to work, and started to take care of patients in the fever ward.

“Many patients get upset and even resist treatment after they are diagnosed with the disease. My experience of being infected with the virus helps me better understand them, and makes it easier to get accepted by patients when I give them psychological counselling,” Wu said.

“It’s you that makes me get up the courage and fight against the virus. I want to remember your face,” a patient said when she was discharged from the hospital on March 1, and asked to take a photo with her.

Xie San

“Donating plasma is something I have to do.”

Xie San at work. (File photo)

In late February, the Union Hospital affiliated to Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science in Wuhan received a letter of thanks from the family of a patient.

“He agreed to our request for voluntary plasma donation after just recovering from the disease himself. And we had never met each other,” read the letter.

The donor referred to in the letter is Xie San, a male nurse in the emergency department of the Union Hospital affiliated to Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science.

“Donating plasma is something I have to do. When I did it, I saw a lot of ordinary people were also donating plasma. What they were doing deserves more praise,” said Xie, who told People’s Daily that many of his colleagues who have recovered from the disease asked him about how to donate plasma after hearing that he had done it.

Xie had volunteered to join the front line of the battle after the outbreak of the epidemic, and worked for more than 40 consecutive days.

He got vomit all over his face while giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to a patient, but even then didn’t stop trying to save him. That was probably when he became infected, according to one of Xie’s colleagues, who all describe Xie as a kind and tolerant man, and whose friends all like to call him “Brother San”.

“I was also afraid when I was first diagnosed with the disease. But as soon as I felt better, I wanted to work,” Xie said.

Zou Jinjing

“As it turned out, it wasn’t my work that needed me, but me that needed my work.”

Zou Jinjing. (File photo)

“See, the computerized tomography (CT) scan results get a bit better each time, but not a lot better every time. It’s just like the growth of a child. It can’t be that fast all the time, but the child will grow up eventually,” Zou Jinjing said to a novel coronavirus patient in the isolation ward, explaining how his condition was gradually improving.

As someone so full of spirit and energy, it’s almost impossible to imagine she was also a novel coronavirus patient not long ago.

Zou is the doctor in charge in the department of respiratory and critical care medicine of Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University. She started to show symptoms of novel coronavirus pneumonia on Jan. 17, and was hospitalized after being confirmed as having the virus.

Zou started getting better on Feb. 1. She asked her hospital to let her return to work as soon as she had gone through the necessary observation and quarantine.

On Feb. 24, after her request was finally approved, Zou resumed her previous duties: making the rounds of the wards and providing diagnosis and treatment in the mornings and taking part in telemedicine sessions in the afternoon.

You need to rest when you fall ill, and get back to work when you recover, according to Zou, who doesn’t think that what she did was in any way heroic.

“As it turned out, it was not my work that needed me, but me who needed my work,” said Zou, who has been in much better spirits since she returned to her duties. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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