Qu Lianlian － head nurse of the intensive care unit at Wuhan Union Hospital in Wuhan, epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province － left her 3-month-old baby in the care of her parents-in-law two weeks ago after she joined her colleagues to fight the epidemic.
Since then, the 36-year-old and her husband Cheng Yifeng, who works as a surgeon with her in the same hospital, have not been home to see their baby daughter and their 7-year-old son. Both have worked on the front line of the fight against the contagion that has claimed more than 1,700 lives throughout China as of Sunday.
“At such a trying moment, we should be in the place where we are and do what we should do as medics and also members of the Communist Party of China,” Qu said in an interview with China Daily.
Qu’s hospital was one of those designated to admit infected patients in the hardest-hit city. Due to the shortage of medics in the hospital after the outbreak, she decided to conclude her maternity leave ahead of time and return to work.
As the head nurse of the ICU, she has to take overall responsibility for the supervision of the administrative and clinical aspects of nursing care in her unit every day, ranging from approaching patients and their families to communicating with doctors, and preparing the medical supplies and protective suits for them.
“Since patients under treatment in ICU are always critically ill, we have to be ready to respond to emergencies at any time,” she said, adding she and her colleagues have worked more than 12 hours every day.
As the epidemic swept the city, many people were panicked, but Qu told her nursing team they needed to be calm and patient despite a lot of physical and psychological pressure.
“We cannot back off because patients need us. We must stay strong during this difficult time. That’s our responsibility,” she said.
However, as a mother in lactation, Qu can only share her stress with her husband. She feels sad about being unable to breast feed her baby daughter. She also misses her son, but they can only make calls with him via WeChat.
Every day after they go back to the hospital dormitory, Qu and Cheng spend some time speaking with their parents over the phone, talking about their children and telling them they are healthy and safe.
“My husband is not romantic, but he supports me a lot,” Qu said.
When she went back to the dorm at midnight on Feb 8 － the start of the Lantern Festival, a traditional Chinese event marking the last day of the 15-day Spring Festival － Cheng was waiting for her with hot chicken soup he had cooked for her, Qu said.
According to Qu, in her hospital, there are many other couples, fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters who are working on the front line against the coronavirus.
“We are not alone,” she said. “We are supported by the people from across the country, and we have faith that we can win the battle against the virus and that this difficult time will be short-lived.”
More than 25,600 medical workers from hospitals around China have pitched in to support Wuhan and Hubei province in their efforts to fight against the contagion.
Qu’s dedication to the battle has been recognised by others, who in turn have offered to help her and her family. A few days ago, she received a call from a community worker in her neighbourhood.
“She learned my husband and I work for the epidemic control. She told me not to worry about my family and that she will help us take care of them,” Qu said. “I was moved a lot by her words, as we don’t know each other. At the time, I felt that my efforts had paid off.”
The epidemic prevention and control efforts have resulted in positive changes, as even in Wuhan new cases are on the decline.
Qu said that she hopes the situation in Wuhan will improve thanks to nationwide support.
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