The megacity of Wuhan started lifting outbound travel restrictions from Wednesday after a 76-day lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19.
In the months-long life-and-death battle, a large number of people, including medical personnel, volunteers and grassroots workers, have made selfless contributions and helped the former epicenter of the virus outbreak get through its toughest time.
Yang Xiao, a frontline doctor working in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, burst into tears on Jan. 29 when she found her baby hardly recognized her during a video call after seven days of separation.
Facing intense work, however, the 31-year-old mom had no time to be sad. “The ICU is the last line of defense for saving patients’ lives,” said Yang. “We’re racing against death.”
“At first, two or three patients needed to be rescued on each shift,” she said. “Due to the heavy protective clothing, it would take five to seven people to help a patient turn over.”
With more signs of progress in the anti-virus fight, the number of COVID-19 designated hospitals in Wuhan has dropped from a peak of 48 to the current fewer than 10.
A bright dawn was finally around the corner, according to the doctor. “There have been no patients in the ICU I worked at since March 12,” said Yang.
Besides the medical staff working around the clock, Wuhan people from all walks of life have also contributed to this battle.
From sanitation workers who keep the city clean to residents staying indoors, from hard-working community workers to delivery workers, everyday heroes in Wuhan have been shining at their posts.
When the megacity was locked down, thousands of volunteers responded quickly to play supporting roles in areas such as medical aid and psychological support.
On Feb. 3, the Communist Youth League of Wuhan issued the first public notice online to recruit volunteers, and over 7,000 people signed up in less than 12 hours after the announcement.
Another 10,000 people applied for volunteer posts on Feb. 23 within 10 hours following the city’s new recruitment drive to ensure the efficient delivery of emergency supplies and daily necessities to residents. Over 24,000 volunteers out of the total 70,000 applicants were recruited to meet the delivery needs of neighborhoods in the city.
China has mobilized its medical resources nationwide to aid Wuhan, demonstrating the great strength and effectiveness of the Chinese system.
“Behind a decline in mortality from the virus in Hubei and its provincial capital Wuhan is the concerted effort by the nation’s ICU elites,” said Chen Erzhen, head of Shanghai’s second medical team aiding Hubei.
“Every critically ill patient is taken care of by a whole ICU team, which provides life support in various ways and the best treatment scheme,” Chen said.
Over 30,000 medical staff have poured into the city from across the country. At the peak of the fight, one in 10 intensive care medics in China were working in Wuhan.
Before departing for Wuhan, Liu Lu, a nurse at the provincial people’s hospital in east China’s Jiangxi, cut her hair short. “Looking good is no longer important, I must be responsible for the safety of my patients and myself,” said the 30-year-old.
She was assigned to the third treatment group at the Wuhan No. 5 Hospital, where she knew no one and could only identify her colleagues by the nametags on their heavy hazmat suits.
Liu took a shift of four hours every day, and getting dressed and undressed from her hazmat suit needed another two hours. She usually wore five layers of clothes under the gown, but still, she was freezing sitting inside the unheated ward. But when she moved, the air-tight gown soon made her sweat.
On March 17, the first batch of medical assistance teams started leaving Hubei as the epidemic outbreak in the hard-hit province had been subdued.
“We arrived in Wuhan on Feb. 4 and worked in two temporary hospitals over the past 40 days. Together with colleagues from Wuhan and Henan Province, we managed 988 beds and treated 1,235 patients,” said Ma Fuchun, head of the Shaanxi team consisting of 43 experienced doctors and nurses.
“Thankfully, we achieved zero patient deaths and zero infection of medics during our stay here,” Ma said.
“Our presence here not only reduced the burdens of local medical workers but, more importantly, brought confidence to Wuhan residents,” he added.
After the virus outbreak, many foreigners chose to stay in Wuhan, stepping up to tide over the difficult time with the city.
“I am very attached to Wuhan, and for me there is no doubt: My place is here,” Olivier Guyonvarch, French consul general in Wuhan said in an interview.
“Together with my colleagues, we have made the choice to stay because it is our duty and our mission,” Guyonvarch said. “It is in difficult times that one recognizes one’s true friends.”
Iranian barista Sina Karami gave up a flight returning home and provided over 25,000 cups of coffee free of charge to frontline medical staff in Wuhan with his Chinese colleagues from the end of January to mid-March.
During the virus outbreak, Frederic Domeck from France worked as a volunteer in Wuhan who drove his own car nearly 1,500 km by the end of March, delivering protective and disinfection materials and daily necessities to hospitals and communities.
Another volunteer Haroon Nomaan helped communicate with overseas donation groups in more than 10 countries. The programmer from Pakistan has completed a total of over 100 donations.
Moving to Wuhan six years ago, Philippe Klein is a general practitioner of the department of international health care at the Wuhan Union Hospital. He said he did not regret his choice to stay. “I’m doing my job. I’m a doctor.”
The doctor lauded China’s courage in the face of the crisis. “This is unique in the history of humanity, with so many sacrifices and millions of people confined to their homes to protect the world.” Enditem