COVID fear unfounded as care is infectious
"Hey, could you please send an ambulance to my neighborhood?" I called the 120 medical emergency hotline on the night of May 12, as soon as I tested positive for COVID-19.
"Hold on, I will pass your request to your nearest urgent care station," the receptionist replied.
"May I help you?" a nurse who took over my call asked.
"I've got a fever of about 39 degrees Celsius, and my heart now beats 136 times a minute. I just tested positive for the novel coronavirus," I quickly reported.
"Can you drive or call a taxi to take you to the hospital?" she asked, suggesting mine was not really an emergency case. "Generally speaking, testing positive for COVID-19 is not a serious issue now, especially if you can walk on your own."
But finally she agreed to send for an ambulance, after knowing that I was all by myself and my wife was abroad. I told her that I would need an ambulance just in case something worse might happen to me if I were going to the hospital alone. For example, what if I had a heart failure, in addition to or as a result of the infection?
The nurse hung up the phone. In two minutes, an ambulance came. While the driver remained on his seat, the nurse stepped down and guided me into the car.
"Don't worry, your heart beats so fast because you are having a fever, that's only normal," the nurse said, trying to calm me down. "You talk clearly, and you walk steadily. Although it's your first time to be infected with COVID-19, you will be fine."
Then, upon my further inquiry, she went to great lengths to explain how I might have caught the disease this time and how fast I might recover, given her understanding of the current round of COVID-19 infection.
"You're lucky," she said. "The overall situation now is much better, as there's no large-scale transmission of the virus, nor a run on medical resources."
As she kindly "talked away" my fears, our ambulance arrived at a major hospital in suburban Shanghais' Qingpu District. The nurse did not leave me until she made sure I was placed in the hands of competent doctors. How "lucky" I was indeed to have been accompanied by a caring nurse while my family members were all far away.
In the hospital's 24-hour fever clinic, there were only about five patients waiting in line before me. I had imagined that there must be many people like me, squeezing each other in long lines.
A patient about my age was sitting on a bench outside the door of the doctor's room. Seeing that I didn't know how to register on a take-a-number machine, he nicely told me how to insert my medical card with the chip side down.
In our later chat, he told me he had just been infected with COVID-19 by his grandson. He didn't look worried at all.
"Just take some medicines and sleep," he smiled to me.
An infectious spirit
How infectious is the spirit of care for others! Soon afterward, I found myself helping other patients as well. I quickly went through a blood test and a CT scan. While I was waiting for the results, I offered to help other patients who could not find the CT room, or didn't know how to print out a paper report.
My heart still beat fast into the small hours of May 13, when all my reports were ready, but it no longer beat because of fatigue and fear. I began to feel hope.
"There's no inflammation in your lungs," the doctor assured me, after studying the medical reports. "Yours is a mild case of COVID-19. But make sure you have a good rest in the next few weeks. Rest is a good recipe."
Indeed, I turned for the better in about one week, though I still cough hard and feel fatigued now and then. But there's hope.
Zhang Wenhong, a leading expert on infectious diseases in Shanghai, said on May 18 that in most cases, the syndromes in this round of infection were milder than those observed at the end of last year. What's more, he noted, patients now have easier access to medicines, while the overall situation is in better control.
I called for an ambulance a week ago because I was fearful – I didn't know whether I would get effective treatment, and I didn't know if I could handle it all by myself while I was alone.
Thanks to the city's ever-improving medical service and ever-loving medical professionals, my fears became hope.