A beautician who contracted COVID-19 while running a team delivering essential supplies to struggling hospitals in Wuhan has spoken to Sky News about what it is like to have the virus.
Li Xiaoxiong, 29, donated £1,500 worth of masks to a nearby hospital on the day the city was placed on lockdown and was then asked by many other hospitals to help out.
After giving a lift to a doctor, Ms Li contracted COVID-19 and is now being treated in one of the makeshift hospitals the government built in a week.
She has been recording video diaries of her time in the hospital, where she still is, and about delivering supplies.
Ms Li spoke to Sky News about her experience in Wuhan
The lockdown on Wuhan started on 23 January at 10am. This was a very serious move, considering no city was locked down during SARS.
By midday on 23 January a WeChat post spread everywhere. It was from Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University saying it was in urgent need of masks and overalls, and it was calling for the whole city to help.
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This hospital is not far from my home, so I thought I could buy something myself and send them to the hospital. So I left my contact details on the internet. I bought 14,000 yuan (£1,542) worth of masks and took them there.
My contact details spread everywhere during the process. Afterwards, many other hospitals contacted me, saying they were also lacking in medical supplies and asking me if I could donate some masks to them.
Image: Ms Li’s volunteer teams are driving supplies to hospitals
I received tonnes of calls that day, and within one hour or so I got tens of thousands of masks to be delivered to hospitals.
But I only have one car so I asked if other car owners would be willing to deliver medical supplies with me. By the end of that day, there were more than 80 members in our team.
I didn’t expect to do this at all. It’s just so many people saw my contact details and asked for help. I just couldn’t say no.
We now have about 60 volunteer groups driving, some of them sleep in their cars so they do not spread the virus to their families and many get up very early to load up vegetables and drive them to hospitals.
It’s really not easy work but they’ve decided to help others. We’ve had a lot of support along the way, for example the local Red Cross and hospitals helped us get vehicle passes to get around the traffic ban.
I get calls from all over the country every day asking to donate money and materials to us. They haven’t abandoned us because it’s happened in Wuhan instead of their home. We owe them a lot of thank yous.
‘Doctors were crying’
When I first started the driving groups, to be honest, people felt desperate. Everyone did. When I picked up doctors, they cried and said they couldn’t get N95 masks or overalls, and all they had were very basic gowns to see and treat patients with fever.
Playground in Wuhan disinfected
They said they couldn’t continue, and it was not because they were afraid of the tiring and difficult work, but because they felt alone.
Just around the same time, Wuhan’s mayor was interviewed and said Wuhan had enough supplies of medical equipment.
Image: Li Xiaoxiong said doctors were crying because they did not have enough protection to do their jobs properly
But we were driving to hospitals at the same time and told the whole hospital had only a handful of overalls left.
Every single hospital was in such an extreme shortage of supplies that doctors were crying. They were very, very desperate.
The state said they’d given a lot of funding to Wuhan, but hospitals couldn’t buy anything – the logistics were cut off!
It felt like Wuhan was abandoned. Would the country leave us behind? Would it just leave us here to perish?
No one knows when the epidemic will end. Everyone was terrified and scared. Everyone was desperate, thinking we were all going to die and the country would give up on us.
‘Only say positive things about Wuhan’
I was interviewed by a local Chinese newspaper and I wanted to them to report this so people from other provinces could know what Wuhan’s situation was really like.
But they said I couldn’t say that. All I could say was positive things. Because otherwise it would show how useless the Wuhan government is.
It was just pure despair. I don’t know about others, but I cried every day at home. I begged those journalists to write about what was really going on in Wuhan.
Image: The streets of Wuhan are empty as the lockdown continues
They said no. They said if something negative like this went out they would lose their job.
All they could say was things like the mayor said – medical supplies were enough, the epidemic was not that serious, it was expected to end soon, and everything was fine, and the lockdown would be released very soon – all nice and beautiful stuff.
But in fact, the situation was already very serious when the city was locked down.
Hospital constructed in days in Wuhan
Some doctors told me their hospitals took more than 100 patients every day. Exactly the same time the news said Wuhan only had some 400 patients in total.
You saw this beautiful fake news a lot, but you also saw the virus was just around you, affecting you. The more of this news you read, the more desperate you felt.
How I got infected
I picked up a doctor and drove them home on 24 January. But the next day I started to feel unwell so I went to the hospital and the result showed my lungs were infected.
This basically meant I was infected with COVID-19. So I went home and started self-isolation. I stayed at home for four days with a high temperature.
Image: Volunteers in protective suits are disinfected in Wuhan
I didn’t stay in the same room with my parents, but they were still infected. Now my entire family is infected.
My father’s condition was critical. He received emergency treatment and was transferred to Wuhan Tongji Hospital a few days ago.
My mother’s lungs are infected. The lungs even look white. But because of the positive result, she is not qualified to get a hospital bed.
So she’s at an isolation point in a hotel and taking medicine.
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Life inside the makeshift hospital
I was admitted to a makeshift hospital where they have given me traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) every day which was developed by Hunan province.
The hospital gives us two bags of TCM every day for pneumonia. Many patients are healed by just taking this, no Western medicine.
Image: Ms Li is in one of Wuhan’s temporary hospitals trying to recover from COVID-19
To be honest the environment is not bad. Food is nutritious, even better than at home. After the state help, you actually feel China is not that bad.
Our treatment and food are free. Every morning they organise fitness exercises too, like tai chi.
It’s not like we are stuck inside all day. Air is fresh. There are portable toilets. There are sinks and showers.
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The government managed to build so many makeshift hospitals within such a short time.
Conditions in the makeshift hospital are not that bad. People are free. It’s not too different from home – especially now compounds are locked, with only one person in a household allowed to go out every three days, and they must only buy groceries.
People are recovering from the virus
My dad is getting better. Actually people say the virus is serious, but if you start treatment early and work with doctors, you will recover.
Many people have been discharged. It’s not like everyone thinks – you get it and you will die.
My father is not young. He had a high temperature for six days and fell into a coma, and was sent to A&E. Even he survived and he’s recovering.
Image: The streets of Wuhan are empty as the lockdown continues
Yesterday his test result came back negative. Although his lungs still show infection, he is expected to leave the hospital soon. It is the same with my neighbours. Some of them had to use oxygen for a while but now they have all recovered and are discharged.
I’ve been infected for a long time and the condition is recurring.
But the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests [which detects HIV’s genetic material and is being used to confirm COVID-19] show I’m positive. It just can’t change to negative.
I’m anxious, but I’ll just stay at this makeshift hospital and take traditional Chinese medicine.
To be honest, China has handled this well. Wuhan reacted very fast by closing down the city, making people stay at home and working with the government.
Although the first two days of the lockdown were bad, nobody got mad, nobody went into the street and infected other people, they maintained their manners.
Source : Sky News