By Wang Yani (Volunteer/nurse in Wuhan), translated by Xia Hailin
February 11, Wuhan.
After finishing the overnight shift at 5 a.m., we worn out and boarded the bus to take us from the hospital to our hotel. I was in bed by six and fell asleep almost immediately, waking only upon hearing the hiss of a pressure disinfection sprayer outside.
Around 6 p.m. yesterday, we departed for Wuhan Living-room, a cultural building complex that has been converted into a quarantine hospital. On the bus, the head nurse outlined our duties and standard operating procedures before assigning tasks to everyone. We listened carefully and hung on her every word. I felt strong, but also nervous and excitement. We entered the hospital one hour before our shift. After donning protective gear in the dressing and disinfection area, we passed the head nurse’s security check and entered the infected ward through a disinfection passageway.
The ward was lined with rows of tidy beds, where patients were either sitting or lying, with doctors and nurses treating them meticulously. The scene should not have been as shocking as it was to me, but I found the conviction in my heart to proceed steadily.
To ensure efficiency in the infected ward and better use the limited protective gear, we did not eat or drink during a 10-hour shift to avoid going to the toilet. Carrying layers of isolation clothing under an exposure suit, we felt like robots. Our movements were clumsy and it was difficult to breath. However, no one complained because we all understood the severity of the situation. The patients were optimistic for a speedy recovery and happy to receive treatment. I felt very much in the same boat as the patients, navigating rough waters.
At the end of each shift, it takes us about an hour and a half to remove all the protective gear. We have to be patient and follow rigid procedures. Any negligence risks infection. After getting out of the suit, we entered a disinfection tent and showered before dressing in clean clothes. We were told to make sure to clean our eyes, ears and nose in the shower.
Eventually, we decided to cut our hair short to further reduce risk of infection. A local barber sighed from behind his face mask. “This is my third time chopping the hair off doctors and nurses,” he said softly. “Thank you for the sacrifice you are making for Wuhan.”
“It’s no bother,” I muttered, trying to stay upbeat. “I’m cutting it short for security. I’ll come back to Wuhan next time with waist-length hair to eat your famous hot dry noodles.” The barber was inspired by my response and skillfully etched a lightning bolt on the side of my head to match my brother’s haircut.
Some nurses who had kept long hair their whole lives were a little hesitant about the haircut.
“It will grow back!” we insisted. After making up their minds, they relented to the barber’s chair. Seeing a big pile of pitch-black hair on the floor, everyone was full of confidence and pride. I would have never seen myself with such short hair if not for the virus.
I managed to sleep a little before doing it all again (minus the haircut) the next day!
Copyedited by Wang Yufan
Layout by Wang Hai
Read Yani’s other diaries:
Diary 3: Waiting for Spring in Wuhan