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My battle with coronavirus: Being a 'leader' in China's temporary hospital

When Kang walked out of the temporary hospital on February 21, together with other 52 cured COVID-19 patients, he could not help shouting, 'Wuhan stay strong! China stay strong'

IANS  |  Wuhan 

China on Wednesday reported 38 more deaths from coronavirus but a fall in fresh cases. Photo: Reuters

If it were not for the reunion with his brother who works in Wuhan, Kang Tiejun would not have come to the epicenter of the novel outbreak before the Spring Festival, which fell on Jan. 25 this year.

On the night of January 22, Kang drove his mother from their hometown Ganzhou, eastern China's Jiangxi Province, to Wuhan, after his wife and two sons had arrived there by high-speed train in the afternoon, the Xinhua news agency.

Before the trip, Kang's mother specially told him to call his brother to understand the situation in Wuhan as news of the outbreak spread.

"Come on, it's not that bad," answered his brother, like most Wuhan citizens who did not realise the severity of the epidemic at that time.

Unexpectedly, the day after their arrival, the city declared an unprecedented lockdown. Moreover, Kang began to develop a fever and sometimes chest tightness and cough on January 29.

"I only went out twice, both times wearing a mask, after arriving here, and I thought I just had a common cold," he recalled.

It was not until February 6 that he was urged by his family to go to the hospital as his fever never improved. When he climbed the stairs at the hospital that day, his chest was so tight that he had to take off his mask to catch his breath.

"At that moment, I was so scared," he said.

Three days later, the 41-year-old man was shocked by his positive nucleic acid test result. He was diagnosed with COVID-19.

He was sent to a designated isolation point and later transferred to a temporary hospital converted from an expo center in Wuhan on the night of Feb. 11.

The temporary hospital had a total of 960 beds, with some 20 beds in each unit. Kang was assigned to Unit Seven, in which there were 19 patients including elderly, young people and children.

Kang said the atmosphere in the unit was kind of awkward in the beginning, with only a few people inquiring about each other's illnesses. Some people even turned away when they heard coughing.

The day after Kang was admitted to the hospital, he was appointed head of the unit by the medical staff when he was helping the in his unit get their daily necessities.

At first, the undereducated patient thought he was not qualified and refused it. However, they told him that all he needed was a warm heart.

Even though he did not know how to be a temporary "leader," he began to take charge of getting food and fruit, as well as registering information, for people in his unit every day.

He would also advise the patients who spent most of their time on their cell phones in bed to do some exercise and comfort those who had lost their loved ones in the outbreak.

To help his ward mates maintain a positive attitude, Kang often cracked jokes with and shared the three sets of aerobics he learned from China's video-sharing app Douyin, also known as TikTok, with people who were interested in.

Gradually, under his "leadership," the patients in the unit, who had been forced together by the virus, became more and more like a family and showed optimism about the disease.

After two nucleic acid tests and a computed tomography (CT) scan, the first four people, including Kang, in the unit were approved to be discharged from the hospital after recovery.

The day before their departure, the ward mates in their unit had a "ceremony" for them: Boxes of milk were placed in a heart shape, and the patients toasted with milk instead of wine.

"I was so moved at that moment," Kang said.

"Your snoring is our lullaby. We won't sleep well without your snoring when you're gone," some aunties quipped.

The "leader" also chose a patient in the unit to take his place. He believed the conscientious young man could continue to lead other patients through the difficulties and to be discharged from the hospital as soon as possible.

When Kang walked out of the temporary hospital on February 21, together with other 52 cured COVID-19 patients, he could not help shouting, "Wuhan stay strong! China stay strong!"

He was then put under quarantine at a designated hotel for 14 days in accordance with the statement issued by the local authorities.

Now, Kang enjoys his life at the hotel. Apart from doing aerobics and viewing short videos on Douyin, he talks more with his family on the phone or China's social media platform WeChat.

He even set up a WeChat group for his unit to invite the patients discharged from the hospital to share their latest situation and cheer each other on.

"My biggest wish right now is to reunite with my family and resume my normal life as soon as possible," Kang said, adding that he would donate blood after his quarantine ends to help cure more patients.

First Published: Wed, March 04 2020. 10:44 IST