Tan and his friend joined the Rapid Response Team at An Lac A Ward Health Station
“I keep remembering the image of an old man standing by the door, watching the ambulance that took the old woman to the hospital because she was desperately ill. Before that, he told me, ‘Let me go with you; I've lived with her for 60 years. I deeply love her.’ Looking at the tears rolling down his wrinkled cheek, I couldn't hold back my feeling.”
It was an emergency case at 3 am; the wife had difficulty breathing. While I was urgently supplying oxygen to her, a call from the hospital said that her husband had just died of COVID-19 in the hospital owing to too severe background disease. So one more family lost their beloved; the heartbroken wife breathed with oxygen crying.
I also can't forget the emergency case for a 7-month pregnant woman; she had difficulty breathing, and low calcium led to the convulsion of her limbs. When the first aid was over, the couple cried thanking me; the husband said that they were infertile, married for 7 years, and now they have a child.”
These were just a few of numerous sad stories in HCMC pandemic hub witnessed by Trinh Ngoc Tan and his friends. "Indeed, when approaching the community, getting closer to the people, you can see the fierceness of this fight, the separation occurs just in a moment, you know," said Tan.
Plunge into the hot spot
When the University Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union (HCMYU) recruited volunteers to HCMC for fighting the pandemic, Tan promptly signed up with “the desire to contribute a small part to the fight against the pandemic, alongside the medical staff, the whole country and my mother, who also joins the fight at home.
Trinh Ngoc Tan granting first aid to a F0 patient at home
At first, Tan's mother did not agree because she was worried that her son would go into a fierce pandemic hub. But next morning, Tan received a message from his mother, "You can rest assured to set out to support the South. But try to stay healthy!"
Tan burst into tears when reading that message. “If asked whether I was afraid, I believed that I and my friends would all say “yes”. But if everyone was scared of the pandemic, who would fight the pandemic, right?” asserted Tan.
Currently, there are 5 working delegations from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Hue University joining the fight against the pandemic in the South, with 2 delegations in Binh Tan District, HCMC, 2 in Binh Duong Province and 1 in Dong Nai Province.
When the University HCMYU launched, the students zealously registered in an excellent volunteer spirit. The students enthusiastically joined in all local support activities in the spirit of fearlessness of difficulties and hardships. As for student Trinh Ngoc Tan, aside from the above tasks, he was also in charge of the communication for the delegation. Tan wrote the articles sharing his feelings upon joining in the anti-pandemic support activities on HueUMPtv media channel, capturing the attention of many officers and students.
MSc. Dr. Vo Van Khoa, Secretary of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy HCMCYU, Hue University.
Like Tan, young girl Hoang Thi Nguyen An, a 4th - year student in Odonto-Stomatology, class OS 4A did not hesitate to register to join even though it was time to prepare for the semester exam.
“There is no more time to waver. The Fatherland needs us; Ho Chi Minh City needs us. I think it was the most reckless decision I've made for more than 20 years. It was not until I knew the departure date that I dared to call my mother and family. Unexpectedly, the family did not protest and encouraged me to keep safe and try to return triumphantly. Hearing the words, my burden was lifted," said An.
The volunteer delegation including 3 doctors, nurses and 75 students of Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy intended to volunteer for 1 month in HCMC. The whole delegation was assigned to work in Binh Tan District - one of the hot spots in the pandemic.
At first, the work of Tan, An and the delegation members was to take community samples, trace F0, localize and eradicate the pandemic. Afterwards, Tan was transferred to the isolation ward to care for, give treatment support to and monitor F0 patients. Tan also joined the Rapid Response Team of An Lac A Ward Health Station - the ward with the highest number of F0 cases isolated and treated at home in the district - to give first aid and medical treatment to the F0 cases isolated at home.
Usually the work starts at 7:30 am and ends at 17 pm or sometimes later. Tan belonged to the Rapid Response Team of the Ward Health Station, so he had to be on duty at night at the health station and worked 24 h a day.
“As the appellation suggests, when getting a call to the health station reporting that a case of F0 being isolated at home has difficulty breathing or gets worse, we must immediately come to his house to consider the situation, give first aid and refer the patient to a higher-level hospital if he worsens ," said Tan.
Unlike Tan, An's group reached Binh Tri Dong Ward to assist the ward health workers with community sampling, rapid test or PCR sampling. The daily sampling usually started at 8 am, lasts until noon and ended around 16 pm or sometimes until 19 pm.
An shared, “One of my most unforgettable memories during my stay in Saigon was the emergency case at 22 pm in the night shift. The female patient fell into respiratory failure; the SPO2 index was 80 even though the patient was put on a respirator. I and the doctor at the isolation zone gave first aid and got on the ambulance to transport the patient to the district hospital, but that hospital ran out of beds, so we had to wait for nearly 7 hours, and fortunately until 5 am the next morning, we breathed a sigh of relief when the patient received treatment”.
“Saigon is in the rainy season, sometimes it is very sunny, but all of a sudden, it rains cats and dogs in mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Sometimes we took samples in the rain or had to work until late afternoon if it rained heavily," An said.
Besides the adverse weather, the biggest difficulty in Tan’s opinion was that the medical equipment on the spot was in very small quantities compared with the cases in need of first aid. There were the times when many cases needed first aid at the same time, but the number of oxygen generators to support breathing on the spot was too small, so Tan and his friends had to go and borrow from many places.
Another big difficulty was the tiny medical staff while thousands of patients needed medical care. “At one point, we received the news that our teammates were exposed. Indeed, I cried when seeing my teammate's 2-bar quick test. Those are the difficulties that cannot be measured in material terms because the tiny human resources will aggravate the situation,” Tan recalled.
“So long as my heart stays hot, I will still join the pandemic fight"
An and the volunteer team members came back to Hue in mid-August while Tan and some friends stayed for another half a month to support vaccination in the district and just returned to Hue.
“The past nearly one month was the most memorable memory in my youth,” An said. “After returning, the whole delegation still feels nostalgic for being unable to help Saigon longer. For each member of the delegation, Saigon has become a home to remember, a place where there are those like their own flesh and blood.”
“Try your best, Saigon! All our dearest feelings, simplest sentiments, and best wishes to you. See you soon, Saigon! With a different mood, a different image, a different spirit, fight for Saigon and fight for the “order of the heart". Hue sends a wish - Saigon wins!" said Trinh Ngoc Tan.
Asked if the university continues to mobilize you to join the pandemic fight, will you keep joining? An and Tan both answered firmly, "Sure, I and my friends will still register to join. As a Vietnamese citizen in general and a medical student in particular, with the Hippocratic oath on my head and the hot heart in my chest, I will still join and will still ,alongside the nurses, doctors, and volunteer students, devote ourselves to the fight against the pandemic”.
Story: Ngoc Ha, photos provided by the character in the story