How infected doctor was 'snatched from Grim Reaper'
Expert says no mistakes were allowed during delicate treatment procedure
It wasn't the first time that Zhan Qingyuan－a 51-year-old expert in respiratory diseases－had handled a patient in critical condition, but this one was different.
Zhan had been sent from Beijing's China-Japan Friendship Hospital to Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, in February last year to fight in the frontline battle against the COVID-19 outbreak.
On March 3, Yi Fan, a cardiologist, was taken to Tongji Hospital after his condition had rapidly deteriorated. "He was critically ill at the time but there was still hope of snatching him from the Grim Reaper," Zhan said.
"No mistake was allowed at any stage during the treatment, or the results are irreversible; it's like a person falling off a high wire."
Yi became infected in late January while working at the Wuhan Central Hospital, as the city became the epicenter of the outbreak in China.
A picture was circulated online in April showing Yi's face had turned a dark color due to drugs used in his treatment.
Zhan said keeping Yi alive involved several difficult medical procedures such as intubating him while he was placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, which performs the functions of the heart and lungs for patients with organ failure.
"I don't want to describe how difficult it was to treat him, but I cherish all the warm moments that arose during the treatment," Zhan said. "I still remember that Yi's wife always brought us desserts and snacks whenever she came to visit him in the ward."
Yi, who made a full recovery, was one of 100 patients Zhan treated in Wuhan during his two-month stay in the city.
"It was Feb 1 and I clearly remember it was 12:18 (pm) when I got the order to set off for Wuhan," he said.
"My colleagues and I were among the third batch sent by the hospital."
Zhan said he was ready for the call-up as he had experience fighting the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003.
"When I arrived at the hospital we were assigned to help straight away. I saw a patient in his 60s being carried by two young people wearing protective suits. The two young volunteers then sat on the floor, looking very tired," he said.
Zhan said he endured some hardship during his stay in Wuhan, but he also experienced great kindness from people.
"Wuhan was still cold then, and my colleagues wanted to eat barbecue," he said. "But it was not possible back then with few restaurants open and the city still in lockdown."
One day, they received a surprise meal at the hospital.
"A warmhearted Wuhan resident contacted me through Douyin (a video-sharing platform), and promised to send us barbecue. I thought it was a joke, but we received it that afternoon! That was sweet," he said, laughing.
Zhan said that trust he developed with his colleagues was vital to the success of their work.
"That was a war to us, not a practice run, so trust was quite important," he said.
"It was like being on the battlefield. I trust that my colleagues can perform all the tasks assigned to them."
Working as a united front was also important, whether that meant wearing face masks or protective suits.
"I was touched that all the people wore masks as they were told to, and followed scientific methods to protect themselves," he said.
Zhan returned to Beijing in early April and Yi went to the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in early December to thank the medical workers who saved his life.