It was quiet in my ward. All the nurses had left. I was alone lying on my bed, trying to sort out how this whole thing started.
On February 23rd, my peaceful Sunday morning in Zhengzhou was interrupted by a call from a local hospital, informing me that a friend of mine who only a few days earlier had stopped by my flat for a visit had just tested positive for covid-19. We were told that we would need to be put into medical quarantine at the hospital, and I was asked to stay where I was until health workers arrived to transport us. It wasn’t long before three fully covered medics showed up at my door. While one of them disinfected my flat, the two others helped me and my parents fill in forms about our medical history, recent travel history, and people that we had been in contact with in the time since my friend had visited us.
Before leaving our home, my mother packed as many masks as possible. I rushed to feed my parrot and quickly dropped an email to my supervisor at work. My father grabbed all his bank cards and the family’s insurance documents. As we boarded the ambulance, I noticed the neighbours standing on their balconies watching. I thought to myself, “if only the siren wasn’t on…”
"It wasn’t long before three fully covered medics showed up at my door. While one of them disinfected my flat, the two others helped me and my parents fill in forms about our medical history..."
- Ms. Wu Shuangnan
Of course, like everyone else, I had been following the news about covid-19 every day. But it still felt surreal the moment when I stepped into the hospital. Was this actually happening? The first thing I noticed was the strong smell of disinfectant, before we were taken away for testing. After undergoing CT scans, doctors did not spot any abnormalities in any of our results. We also all tested negative in the first nucleic acid test.
I thought I had known enough about hospital life from the newspapers, but I was surprised that we didn’t need to pay for anything. Doctors swabbed me three times in total, but they charged nothing. All the tests, masks and even food was free. Therefore, for my father, taking bank cards and insurance papers turned out to be completely unnecessary because doctors told us that the state would pick up everything even if we were confirmed.
"The first thing I noticed was the strong smell of disinfectant, before we were taken away for testing. "
- Ms. Wu Shuangnan
Nurses said we were lucky to have private rooms as there was a shortage of beds a few weeks ago. One nurse came by to take my temperature on an hourly basis every day and she had a notebook filled with my temperature record, but she always had a mask on so I have never got a chance to see her face. Food wasn’t particularly tasty but was definitely nutritious and they even offered fresh fruit every day, which made my mother more than satisfied because she didn’t have to cook.
Over the next several days, my parents were allowed to go home, but I wasn’t because I suddenly got a mild fever. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t panic at all. I compulsively checked my temperature and drank a huge amount of water every day, which didn’t help much. Doctors decided to swab me and scan my lungs again. Both results were fine, but my fever lasted for 3 days. It might sound silly, but I did secretly fear that those would be my last few days. I started to block news about the virus’ fatality rate because I didn’t want to overthink things. I tried to put a positive spin on things, distracting myself by writing, exercising, and doodling. I called all my close friends to hear their voices, pretending I was simply catching up. I even wrote a long letter to my parents just in case.
"Food wasn’t particularly tasty but was definitely nutritious and they even offered fresh fruit every day, which made my mother more than satisfied because she didn’t have to cook."
- Ms. Wu Shuangnan
My job at UNDP continued despite my quarantine. In fact, work became something I looked forward to so I could keep my mind occupied. I enjoyed the daily remote team meeting with my colleagues more than ever before because my lovely team all told me to stay strong and that I was going to be alright. You have no idea how difficult it is to be put into that situation: you are scared because you might be infected by a lethal epidemic, but you cannot share your fear with anyone because you don’t know how to.
I even remember one night, I had a long call with my poor friend who had been confirmed with covid-19. Over the phone, we both worried about our lives and started to list out things that we would do once we were discharged. The conversation went on and on until we both fell asleep.
That same night was the first time I slept well since I got the fever. The next morning, my temperature finally dropped back to normal. The doctor later told me that I was likely just stressed out and it was not caused by coronavirus. The next day, I was allowed to return home. I later learned that my friend who was confirmed to have the virus was also recovering.
The virus is transient in nature, but the love and care that I had the privilege to experience from family members, friends, nurses, doctors and UNDP colleagues will last. They have all been there for me throughout my hospital life.
"You are scared because you might be infected by a lethal epidemic, but you cannot share your fear with anyone because you don’t know how to."
- Ms. Wu Shuangnan
Staying in the hospital is drastically different from what I’ve read. I thought it would definitely be somber, but whoever lived next door to me was dancing to disco music every day. Nurses even put all patients on my floor into an online chat group, where we discussed everyday menus and played online poker and sent out digital red envelopes (lucky money) sometimes.
Work also carried on, albeit remotely, which helped create a sense of normalcy. I was really proud that I was able to support my team with our #SpreadTheWordNotTheVirus campaign giving hundreds of thousands of people a platform to help combat the epidemic without being on the frontlines through awareness raising. By continuing to work, I felt that in some ways, I too was making my own little contribution to the fight, even from my hospital bed!
This whole period has, without a doubt, been a really hard time for everyone, but I’ve been touched by how people have all tried to make it better, often through simple little actions or gestures, keeping spirits up, expressing support, and showing compassion. I guess that would be my most valuable takeaway from my coronavirus experience. A virus can be deadly, but the warmth shared between people and their passion about life are what truly matter to win this fight.
Authored by Ms. Wu Shuangnan, Intern on Communications, Innovation, and Partnership Team at UNDP China