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Global Times

Wuhan doctors share COVID-19 experience with US counterparts to foster closer bond

Global Times

By Yan Yunming Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2020/4/27 3:23:53

As Wuhan recovers from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic thanks to efforts from medical personnel, the virus continues to wreak havoc in many parts of the world, especially in the US, which has reported the world's largest number of infections.

Although the two countries are separated by thousands of miles, and a growing hostility is being fanned by some US politicians, a group of Wuhan doctors have started to offer a helping hand to US medics by sharing their first-hand experiences.

Ye Baixin, a hematologist with Wuhan University's Renmin Hospital, helped launch the "Global health professionals on COVID-19," a group of four online chat rooms created specifically for doctors to share their experiences treating COVID-19 with health workers worldwide. The chat rooms have already acquired nearly 2,400 frontline health workers with the majority members from the US.

"Any recommendations for effective disinfection at clinics?" read an inquiry from the US. A Chinese doctor immediately replied with a picture that showed the equipment used by his clinic.

"Top Israeli scientist says coronavirus pandemic would almost drop to zero in 70 days, using simple stats," said another chat room member from California who shared a report on COVID-19 scientific updates. Whether infected cases with mild symptoms should be quarantined at home or sent to makeshift hospitals were also discussed.

Ye's phone buzzes daily with such messages 24-7. In addition to providing his knowledge based on experiences, Chinese doctors also try to soothe the fears foreign doctors may have as the situation becomes more serious in other countries.

"Having gone through all the hardships and having eventually conquered the epidemic, Wuhan doctors are like an internationally recognized brand name to overseas health workers. We can not only provide them with experience but also boost their confidence," said Ye and added, "the success of Wuhan and China proves that the virus is not indestructible."

Returning kindness

Ye's original intention was to "repay overseas compatriots for their kindness." The Wuhan doctor was in Kansas, a midwest state in the US, for a one-year academic visit when the coronavirus outbreak hit his city.

Although in a foreign country, Ye was worried about his colleagues who were fighting the unknown virus and was eager to do his bit. He called on ethnic Chinese in the US to contribute and received numerous responses. On January 28, the first shipment of more than 10,000 N95 face masks arrived in Wuhan.

Ye and a Chinese American doctor helped Tencent, a Chinese tech giant, set up a "Epidemic Fund" worth 1.5 billion yuan to appraise the quality of medical supplies that the company purchased to support Wuhan. The two doctors slept less than three hours a day just to get the fund up and running.

Ye returned to China in March. With the situation getting worse in the US, many health workers, including his friends, were grappling with a shortage of supplies. Ye decided to take action and began calling for donations.

Within a day, about 100 of Ye's Wuhan colleagues responded and donated money. When the medical supplies arrived in the US, Ye's friends were deeply touched. Many US medics told Ye that "Wuhan doctors are a group of heroes who helped others without hesitation despite their own sufferings."

But as the Chinese government and civil organizations began to aid foreign countries, Ye hoped to do something new.

"It suddenly occurred to me that what the frontline medics overseas needed was not only protective masks and outfits, but also experience of handling the new disease," Ye told the Global Times.

The first WeChat chatroom was launched on March 22.

The chat room announcement said, "Thanks to the Chinese all over the world for their assistance and support, Wuhan and China have gone through the darkest times. But humanity's fight against the virus is far from over. We will stay one mind with all overseas compatriots to tide over the difficulties and obstacles."

As one chat room could only hold 500 members, two more were created to meet increasing demand from doctors. And with the help of Tencent, which runs WeChat, a chatroom that allows 10,000 members was created.

Mutual benefit

The US has overtaken China since late March with the most COVID-19 cases. The country has reported over 900,000 infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. Facing unprecedented difficulties, hundreds of US health workers joined the platform in need of advice.

Compared to the China-US political arena where some US politicians have launched slanderous attacks against China and played the blame-shifting game, the "Global health professionals on COVID-19" chatrooms have witnessed reciprocity and cooperation.

When membership reached over 1,300, Ye and his team did a survey, concluding that about 600 were working in the US, nearly 500 in China - mostly in Wuhan, and the rest were in 20 other countries including the UK, France, and Italy. The majority of the "global health professionals" are ethnic Chinese.

Ye has also received several messages, mostly from the Chinese American members, saying they are eager to introduce this platform to their colleagues. Ye happily responded, "All health workers, regardless of nationality and race, are welcome. The more widely Wuhan experience can be shared, the better." As most of the members in each group can speak English, language is not a problem.

US doctors appeared lost and anxious in coping with the virus as it ravaged the country. The chat rooms have played a big role in allaying fears.

Ye and his team try to boost confidence by sharing their stories of how medical personnel conquered the pandemic in Wuhan.

Indeed, many frontline US medics said they had gained faith and clinic treatment plans from the chat rooms. Wuhan doctors have been eager to answer questions related to personal protection, drug dosage, and clinical practice. A doctor in New York suspected himself of contracting the coronavirus, and Chinese health workers rapidly responded and offered advice, which helped the doctor pull through.

In addition to question and answer sessions, online lectures have also been conducted in the chatrooms delivered by prestigious Chinese medical experts. For example, Zhang Jinnong, director of the emergency department at Wuhan Union Hospital, on March 28, shared his struggles with COVID-19. On Saturday, the eighth lecture was held.

Recently, discussions on scientific progress have dominated, such as the rare symptoms of the disease that have received scant attention in Wuhan. In this regard, Chinese doctors are also acquiring knowledge from abroad, and mutual benefit can be observed.

Despite certain US politicians' attacks against China and racist rhetoric against the Chinese, health professionals who use the chatrooms have focused on how to maintain people's well-being, whether they're Chinese or American. Topics on politics, religion, and racial discrimination are forbidden in the chat rooms.

Ye expects the chat rooms to serve as a humanitarian bond that connects all his peers worldwide, and brings together the knowledge, experience, and resources to tackle the disease, rather than a platform for political debates.

"As long as the chat rooms have some value, we will keep running them," Ye told the Global Times, "We are living in a 'global village,' so helping others is helping ourselves."

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