Peking University, Feb 18, 2020: The following is an excerpt from a diary written by Yuan Xiaoning, deputy director of the Nosocomial Infection Management Department at Peking University Third Hospital (PUTH). She is also a member of the national medical team fighting against COVID-19 in Hubei.
It’s been a week since we arrived in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak. To be honest, I still hesitate and dare not to vent my overstocked feelings. It’s 4:00 a.m. now, with work going smoothly and orderly in the clean area of the hospital. In our anteroom I can only hear the hum of computers and the wheeze from air disinfection machines. Our team leader is with me, just like what we were in the past two medical relief tasks. The room is quiet, so quiet as if the whole Wuhan city were asleep. It’s time, I think, to document my feelings.
I had signed up to join the national medical team before I was informed that PUTH was forming a medical team. This Lunar New Year doomed to be special. My parents kept babbling at our family reunion dinner, reminding me of the significance of taking good care of myself, since they thought I was not as healthy and energetic as 17 years ago when SARS broke out. “For years you have been suffering from sensitive airways that make you cough and even bring you asthma sometimes. I think you’d better not to rush to the front line,” said my parents. Such words also touched my husband who, recalled my haggard look when I stepped out from the isolation ward after medical observation. He expressed his misgivings and suggested me taking a back seat, that is, training novices instead of heading to Wuhan. Seventeen years ago, my son was just three years old. How time flies! Now he has grown up as a 185cm-tall junior, just returning from his exchange in America. He bought me some coenzyme Q10 pills that are beneficial to my heart. As expected, my son was against me when hearing I would go to Wuhan and provide medical help, maybe he recalled the similar situation in 2003 when SARS broke out and we had to be parted from each other.
Even so, I still decided to go to Wuhan, for nobody was more suitable than me in my department. Among my colleagues the eldest one is 57 years old. Others are either trapped in balancing daily work and childcare, or inexperienced in tackling severe contagion. Considering these factors, I replied in the WeChat group of PUTH medical staff, telling them I would go and started to pack my luggage.
My resolution overtook dissent from my family members. My husband became a meticulous reminder and busied himself cramming items into my luggage. In the rest of time, he just stared at me, wordlessly and worriedly. My son volunteered to make dumplings in the kitchen. I told them repreatedly to conceal my final decision from my parents, who were left in my hometown far from our apartment in Beijing. Sensing their unspoken sadness, I joked with my son, telling him to practice the famous saxophone melody, Go Home, which I designated in my testament to be the parting song soloed by him. But he immediately rejected.
Yuan Xiaoning's family
The second day of the Lunar New Year Holiday should have been spent with my parents as usual, but this year, it marked my departure to Wuhan. My breakfast was dumplings – made by my son, and noodles – a traditional symbol of the very day. My husband and son, with my petty dog, saw me off together to the hospital. My colleagues had arrived at the office already. Daily necessities, protective clothing, and common drugs, full of care and love from our colleagues, have all been packed in a big suitcase and a large carton.
At 10:30 a.m., members of our medical team, formed overnight, met for the first time. Jin Changxiao, party chief of PUTH, and Qiao Jie, president of PUTH, made inspirational speeches. After that, the whole team received targeted training of diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and control of novel coronavirus pneumonia. I also met my old comrade-in-arms, Ge Qinggang, our team leader. Looking at him, I recollected weals and woes we shared in the arduous rescue operations amid SARS outbreak in 2003 and Yushu earthquake in 2010. Now we stand abreast for the third time in Wuhan. I felt stressful at one time, but was partly eased by hugs and warm words from our colleagues, and our promissory reunion in the Lantern Festival. These touching moments emboldened me to face the upcoming challenge.
We flew to Wuhan with national medical teams and soon started our work. The preparation went very smoothly, from getting contact with the designated hospital and refurbishing wards, to confirming different work procedures and receiving prevention & control training. I couldn't help sobbing at the spot of training examination – partly for pressure on the shoulder, but more for the fact that I was deeply touched by my teammates, who were so immersed and dedicated. I still remember what President Qiao emphasized when she saw us off. She said my department, the Nosocomial Infection Management Department, needs to enhance manpower as soon as possible given the current shortage. That being said, I still believe the epidemic will prompt the development of my profession, for all will be the best arrangement!
At 3:00 a.m., Jan. 28, we entered the quarantine area for the first time. I helped everyone in my team with wearing protective clothing and piling their hair into disposable caps. I then checked their equipment and adjusted their goggles. During this process, I touched their foreheads, which were slightly sweating, and witnessed the expressions in their eyes, young and firm. I believe medical science will prevail in the fight against the novel coronavirus!
As teammates went into wards one after another, everybody calmed down, and it seemed that the soft music I previously sent to them as emotional pacifiers were unnecessary now. I was delighted to see their morale. I felt relieved after reading their diaries and seeing their photos that document their tireless endeavors in combating novel coronavirus,.
Every drop of water owns a crystal heart. That was the philanthropy from all of us, once converged, wonders of life will be lightened!
Wuhan, Wuhan! With support from every corner of the country, nothing will impede the blooming spring in the coming months.
Written by: Bai Qingwen
Edited by: Wei Yunqi Liu Xin
Source: People’s Daily (Chinese)