A Woman ICU Doctor's Fight Against COVID-19

March 9, 2020
Editor: Daisy

HEFEI, March 9 (Xinhua) — Yang Yun, 40, has been in close contact with patients who have the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for six hours - longer than her sleeping time - on most days for almost two months.

Yang is an intensive care unit (ICU) doctor at the Infectious Diseases Department of the First Affiliated Hospital of the University of Science and Technology of China, a designated institution treating COVID-19 in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province.

Yang enters the ICU wards at 8 a.m. and leaves at 2 p.m. to participate in a series of online and offline discussions of treatments with other experts.

She works late and often goes to bed at 1 a.m., with little time to eat.

Since patients in ICU wards are critically ill, Yang and her colleagues apply the highest-level protection. Before entering the wards, they spend at least 20 minutes donning heavy protective suits, shoe covers, gloves, masks, goggles and a face shield.

"To the patients, we probably look like monsters," one of Yang's colleagues joked.

The medical personnel on the frontline against the virus have the highest risk of exposure to infection. One of their daily tasks is swabbing patients' throats for testing.

Despite intensive training and long experience, Yang and her colleagues were still scared at the beginning of the outbreak, especially after hearing of the deaths of medical staff in the worst-hit Wuhan.

Yang, a small woman, showed great courage. As ICU director, she always took the lead in entering the wards and talking with patients.

Most patients had difficulty breathing and could not move as they were attached to needles and machines. Yang often put her face close to their ears and spoke louder so they could hear her.

"I try to raise their morale," said Yang. "I tell them that many patients have recovered and help them believe they can recover too."

Yang's ICU wards have received 28 patients, most of them elderly. The oldest was 93.

Apart from regular treatment and examinations, medical staff must clean the patients, washing their hair and feet, cutting toenails and clearing waste.

"Some nurses have difficulty finding my veins due to the foggy goggles and heavy protective suits. I can barely see their faces, but I hear the sweat dripping behind their masks," said a 40-year-old patient, who was discharged from the ICU on Feb. 22.

ICU medics are also moved by their patients.

Yang was impressed by a middle-aged couple. They both had the virus in January and shared a room.

At first, they had severe symptoms and the wife often cried at night.

The husband recovered first, but he begged doctors to allow him to stay with his wife. Yang agreed and watched him care for his wife every day.

The husband was discharged on Feb. 14. The hospital gave the couple portable oxygen bags as Valentine's Day presents.

Several days later, the couple came back to Yang to donate blood after learning that convalescent plasma therapy had proved effective in the treatment of critical cases.

Since Jan. 21, the day the hospital received its first COVID-19 patient, Yang has not been home. She cries when she thinks of her family.

Yang misses her son desperately. She was absent for his whole winter vacation, but the boy did not complain. He wrote in an essay: "My mom is a great woman. She has saved many lives."

Yang has been sent to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, to promote the hospital's experiences to frontline medics there. The University of Science and Technology of China has worked with Yang's hospital, proposing a treatment that using the drug Tocilizumab to block the inducement of the disease's inflammatory storm.

The treatment has been effective in clinical trials and included in China's latest diagnosis and treatment guidelines.

Yang works around the clock in Wuhan, as she did in Anhui. As of March 7, a total of 85 patients in her hospital had recovered.

She will celebrate her 41st birthday on March 9 in Wuhan.

"I wish the epidemic ends soon and I can go home," she says. 


(Source: Xinhua)

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