Guo Wei's wish for the New Year of the Ox is stunningly simple. And probably universal. "I wish life would return to normal," he said simply as he sat in front of a screen monitoring heart beats. "I wish people can go about their normal activities once more and production and other economic activities resume. Not only in China but worldwide."
The 41-year-old's contribution to the efforts for normalization includes working on New Year's Eve. But it seems hardly any sacrifice compared to how he spent his New Year holiday in 2020.
The associate chief physician at the trauma center of Peking University People's Hospital in Beijing, Guo was sent to Jiangxi Province in east China in January 2020 to assist in poverty alleviation.
He was deputed to a county hospital to help improve its capacity. Then came the news that a new highly infectious disease had been reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province in central China. So Guo was asked to go to the city hardest hit by the novel coronavirus disease in China.
Guo Wei in an intensive care unit at Peking University People's Hospital in Beijing on January 31 (LI KAIZHI)
"I was ready to go," the father of two said. "I told my superiors, I just need to talk to my parents once since they are old and would be worried otherwise. Also, I would like to ask my father for his advice on how to work in an epidemic situation."
His father Guo Fengqi was a doctor in a district hospital in Beijing in 2003 when the capital suffered from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). He was on the forefront of the battle at that time and it was his example that inspired his son to become a doctor as well.
Guo Wei's family never demurred about his going to Wuhan, though it was especially hard for his mother, Li Changlan, to go through another period of waiting and anxiety, all the more so because he would be in a different city where she would not be able to support him in any way.
"When my father was fighting SARS, she was the backbone of the family," Guo Wei said. "She took care of us kids and she provided him whatever help she could."
This time Guo Wei's wife Yang Jie stepped into her mother-in-law's shoes to give him mental support. The day he left for Wuhan, she made a short video with her two sons, one 8 and the other 4, telling him to stay safe and strong.
"I needed that," Guo Wei said with a wry smile. "When we arrived in Wuhan, though it has a population of over 11 million, the roads were deserted. Due to the epidemic control measures, our bus had to make several detours and we had to switch vehicles, which stretched the half-hour journey from the airport to our hotel to three hours. We were venturing into the unknown and all these things made us worried. So when we finally arrived at the hotel and I saw the video, it cheered me up immensely."
During his stay in Wuhan, no matter how late they finished work and how exhausted he felt, when he went back to his room, he would watch the video and feel strong again.
Spring Festival that year was dismal. "There was no atmosphere for celebrations," he said. "After work, we went back to our rooms as usual since movements were restricted to contain the infection. Each of us ate a lonely dinner of dumplings, enlivened with video chats with our families."
Dumplings are also on the menu this Spring Festival. But this time they will be made by his mother. She will make three kinds of dumplings and they will have an added flavor because he will be eating with his own. "That's the best way to celebrate, with your family," he said.
Come 2022 and once again he will miss celebrating the Spring Festival with his family. He will be on duty during the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, which will be held from February 4 to 20.
But, though it will be a hectic time for everyone involved, it will also be a time of national pride and joy and a great way to usher in the new year.
(Print Edition Title: SERVICE BEFORE CELEBRATION)
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