Father and Son Soldiers on the Wuhan Battlefield in the Fight against COVID-19
February 08,2021   By:en.humanrights.cn
Feb.8,2021 -- A meeting commending role models in China’s fight against the COVID-19 epidemic was held in Beijing on September 8, 2020, after more than eight months’ battle. The event served as a tribute to heroes and outstanding individuals and was an opportunity to learn lessons and draw inspiration from past experiences. At this meeting, which attracted international attention, General Secretary Xi Jinping expounded on the great anti-epidemic spirit for the first time.
At the meeting, Zhong Nanshan was awarded the Medal of the Republic, and Zhang Boli and others were awarded the national honorary title of “the People’s Hero.”There was also a special guest at the meeting. He was Zhang Lei, son of Zhang Boliand the team leader of the 12th medical assistance team sent to Wuhan from Tianjin. The two men have been praised by the media as the father and son soldiers on the battlefield of Wuhan.
Host: At the recent meeting commending role models in China’s fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, you received the honorary title of National Role Model in Fighting the Epidemic, and your father, academician Zhang Boli was awarded the title of “the People’s Hero.”It must have been an incredibly special feeling for you to attend the meeting with your father.
Zhang Lei: Yes. As one of the ordinary frontline workers, I felt extremely proud to attend the meeting. The meeting was held in the Great Hall of the People, a place for hosting high-level meetings, because the CPC Central Committee and General Secretary Xi put a high value on healthcare workers fighting the epidemic, including those who went to Wuhan and those who stayed in their home provinces. We were so happy to see the medical workers from all across the nation gathered in the Great Hall of the People because we had worked with most of them in Wuhan. We, I mean all those people present at the meeting, people from all walks of life including medical workers, were so proud that what we have achieved through tremendous efforts in the past few months has been recognized worldwide.
Host: When did you enter Wuhan?
Zhang Lei: I arrived in Wuhan on February 21, 2020.I started working in the makeshift hospital on February 24 as an expert on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Later, we also offered medical advice online to patients in Hubei Province who had already recovered from COVID-19.We found that they were doing pretty well after being discharged from the hospital, even better than they expected. We mostly helped them to relieve stress and offered medical guidance.
For the CPC Central Committee, the essential guiding principle behind China’s fight against COVID-19 is putting people’s lives first. Therefore, as medical workers, we should make full use of our expertise and various advanced media to help patients in hospital and during the long recovery process after they are discharged. It may take a long time for them to fully recover, especially psychologically. Actually, we have already started psychological intervention and rehabilitation by combining Chinese therapies and Western medicine in the make shift hospitals back in Wuhan.
We used both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine to treat COVID-19 patients, giving full play to TCM’s unique advantages. In this way, we have treated some 600 COVID-19 patients in the makeshift hospitals established by TCM doctors. They have had fairly good clinical results. There have been no deaths, aggravated symptoms, or any detectable positive RNA tests among those patients who have recovered. As far as I know, many hospitals, including makeshift ones in Wuhan, have used TCM to treat patients, and this has proved to be effective in general.
Host: You must have already heard about the situation in Wuhan before you came to the city, either through the media or your colleagues working on the frontline. So, was what you saw in Wuhan the same as what you learned beforehand?
Zhang Lei: Well, Wuhan was in a much better position than I thought. I expected it to be in a mess, but on the contrary, it was in good order. There were few people around, but you could still locate all the relevant equipment. Of course, I knew more about the hospitals, and more than a dozen make shift hospitals in operation back then were treating patients in an orderly way. We created several WeChat groups for patients so that they could contact us whenever they needed help. For example, a patient who felt uncomfortable in the middle of the night may tell us about it in the WeChat group. We could then help that patient to solve the problem. After we left Wuhan, we kept in touch with them, and they all felt they have recovered better than expected.
Host: China has stuck to the principle of putting people’s lives first during the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic. How was this principle applied to your treatment of patients on the frontline?
Zhang Lei: I would like to answer this question firstly from the perspective of the patient. Under the circumstances at the time, the central government decided to build makeshift hospitals and put them in use as soon as possible for patients with mild and moderate symptoms to prevent them from developing into severe and critical cases, and to try to cure them. The Party committees and governments at all levels provided the best medicine and treatment for patients regardless of costs. They took good care of them in every possible way during their hospitalization.
Take their meals, for example. We had been visiting them daily, so I know that their meals were of a high standard and, as they told me, delicious too. What was offered to them was more than they had expected. They had fruit to satisfy their daily need for vitamins, and they were given milk every day, which was in short supply during the epidemic. China also tried its best to cure the patients, including reallocating medicine and installing equipment such as CT scanners. The patient I knew who underwent the strictest nucleic acid testing had been tested nine times in a month, and he was finally discharged from the hospital after testing negative three times in a row. Everything possible was done to ensure every patient was cured before being discharged.
Those COVID-19 patients who had cell phones were in touch with the outside world whenever they wanted to. Some patients’ parents at home were old and suffered diseases, such as high blood pressure or heart disease. One patient was so concerned about his parent that he was suffering emotionally. But after a few days, he told me that the neighborhood committee workers had sent his mother to the hospital. She even called him, telling him to receive treatment for COVID-19 and  not to worry about her. He was so grateful to the neighborhood committee, the sub district office and the volunteers working there.
Secondly, I would like to answer the question from the perspective of medical workers. During the outbreak of SARS in 2003, we had a large number of medical workers entering the dangerous red zone. However, the personal protection equipment, the working environment, including the rest environment that medical workers have now, have greatly improved compared to that17 years ago.
The Jiangxia Make shift Hospital, which had been converted from a sports center, was where I worked. It was divided into three zones by two passageways, and it had excellent facilities. Government sat all levels cared a lot about the frontline medical workers. I have to say that the protective measures for healthcare staff were much better than expected.
Host: So, when did you know that your father was going to Wuhan, the frontline of the fight against COVID-19? You must have already applied to work on the frontline by then, right? How did your family respond to the fact that two men from the same family were going to the epicenter of the epidemic?
Zhang Lei: I got the message on the second night of the first lunar month, to be exact. My father did not tell us about it because he was required to keep it confidential. My mother has been incredibly supportive. She told me that she had expected that he would go. It was just a matter of when. My wife was supportive too. She said to my father, “Just go. I will take good care of Grandma.”It was my wife who took him to the place where he left for Wuhan and saw him off.
Host: How long has it been since you and your father, academician Zhang Boli, last saw each other? He had just undergone an operation to have his gallbladder removed a few days before you went to Wuhan and was still in the recovery period when you arrived.
Zhang Lei: He had the surgery on February 18, and that day I happened to be on duty in the hospital. A superior at the frontline command asked me whether I wanted to go to Wuhan ahead of schedule since it was already determined that I would go there as the leader of Tianjin medical team. I chose to go with my team because my father was in good hands, being cared for by the medical workers. I could not see him until March 10,when we met for the first time in Jiangxia Make shift Hospital as under the infection prevention rules, once I entered the red zone, I would not be able to visit him.
Host: In your career, what does the experience of working on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 as a medical worker mean to you?
Zhang Lei: The advantages of China’s systems have come into their own in the fight against the pandemic. China has followed the principle of putting people’s lives first, without which it would not achieve so much. Compared with other countries, China has an exceptionally large population. Still, it has achieved highly satisfactory results in the fight against the epidemic within the shortest time and at a minimum cost. China’s achievements are obtained thanks to the country’s advanced medical technology, economic strength, and production capabilities, including the production of medical supplies. It is fair to say that China is taking the lead in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic. We would not have achieved this without the guarantees provided by technical support, material supply, and professional expertise. The advantages China has can be seen in the measures taken at every step by the CPC Central Committee, the State Council, the National Health Commission and the National Prevention and Control Command Center, including the decisions on the lockdown of Wuhan, the building of makeshift hospitals and use of TCM in treatment. As healthcare workers, we feel enormously proud and exhilarated, because China’s remarkable performance in the fight against the epidemic has fully demonstrated the rapid growth of its comprehensive national strength.


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