The unknown, relentless novel coronavirus has so far deprived thousands of people of their beloved family members in China. Parting ways doesn’t mean parting forever. CGTN explores in detail the lives of those who have died from the coronavirus since the outbreak began.
Liu Yang never thought this meeting with her father, even though it was from afar, would be their last. Her father Liu Zhiming, a prominent neurologist, died on February 18 after being infected by the novel coronavirus.
Liu was director of Wuhan Wuchang Hospital, which was designated by the Wuhan municipal government on January 21 as one of the hospitals to treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus or suspected of having the virus. “He called me, asking me to prepare some clothes for him. He said he was too busy to go home. At the time, I felt that he was short of breath,” said his wife Cai Liping, an ICU head nurse at Wuhan Third Hospital.
A workaholic, he was on shift for three days straight in converting a part of the hospital into isolation wards that began receiving infected patients on January 23. That was the day when Wuhan was put on lockdown, and also the day Liu was diagnosed with COVID-19.
He was hospitalized the next day and soon attached to a ventilator, talking only on the phone with Cai, who was on a hectic schedule in treating severe COVID-19 cases. In his last days, he rejected intubation, according to Hong Yi, secretary of Wuchang Hospital’s discipline committee. “He was worried that his team would be infected.”
On the day he passed away, there were 431 COVID-19 patients in his hospital. He’s the first known hospital director to have died from the coronavirus.
Aside from senior medical professionals on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19, there are young doctors at the beginning of their careers such as Xia Sisi, a gastroenterologist at Wuhan’s Union Jiangbei Hospital. She died from the infection in late February. Colleagues said she could have been infected in January, when she tended to an elderly patient who had presented symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
Five days later, she had a fever of 38.9 degrees Celsius and felt a tightness in her chest. She was hospitalized on that day. When she felt she could be discharged and go back to the frontline after her symptoms subsided a few days later, her situation deteriorated. Her husband Wu Shilei, a surgeon at Wuhan Pu’ai Hospital, rushed to the emergency room in the early hours on February 7. Her heart had stopped. Doctors intubated and resuscitated Xia after putting her on ECMO support, then transferred her to a hospital specializing in intensive care. But she remained in a coma and passed away on February 23.
Back home, Wu couldn’t come to terms with her death. “We had promised to fight on the frontline together when she recovered.” He didn’t know what to tell their two-year-old son. “Jiabao believes his mother is still working at the hospital.”
So far, at least 46 medical professionals in China have died in relation to the coronavirus outbreak. Some had decades of experience while others were just beginning their mission to help others. Li Wenliang, the ophthalmologist who shared a patient report in December that alerted his medical school classmates to the coronavirus, died at 34 years old. Song Yunhua, a doctor at a community health center, was hit by a motorcycle after working long hours to screen patients for the virus. She was 46.
Many of these doctors were likely exposed to the coronavirus from late 2019 to January, when the new virus was just coming to light. Medical professionals had encountered patients that might have had COVID-19 before it had been identified as a distinct coronavirus strain, so they had worn protective equipment and followed procedures that were appropriate for dealing with low-level infectious diseases. Little did they know that they had come into contact with a serious yet mysterious virus that would evolve into a global pandemic months later.
These doctors maintained the utmost professionalism and concern for their colleagues and patients in the darkest moments. Their spirit is seeded in those who aspire to follow in their footsteps, such as Liu Yang, who is now a first-year medical student at the very school that her father Liu Zhiming graduated from.
To learn more about these doctors and other victims of the novel coronavirus in China, visit CGTN’s interactive memorial page.