Recovered Covid-19 patients join frontlines

By Thuy An   September 15, 2021 | 04:26 am PT
On recovery from Covid-19, Tran Van Tai volunteered at a field hospital, regardless of his parent's objections.

In the downpour on the evening of Sept. 8, Tai, a resident of Binh Duong’s Thu Dau Mot Town, waited for the bus to bring him home after a long day collecting 560 patient samples and detecting 19 Covid-19 cases.

"Some days we detected hundreds of new cases. I was bombarded with news saying thousands more were found elsewhere, so I couldn't sleep," Tai said.

Since the fourth coronavirus outbreak hit Vietnam in late April, Binh Duong has recorded more than 166,000 infections, the second-highest in the country. Cases were detected through screening at medical facilities, isolated areas, and in the community, sometimes with more than 5,000 per day.

Every day, medical staff and volunteers are in a race to collect a huge amount of samples, supported by many recovered patients trained in the process of screening and treatment.

On Sept. 4, Binh Duong decided to "pay wages" to about 1,200 recovered patients who took care of others. This is a valuable source of labor since after recovery, these volunteers have the necessary antibodies to make them temporarily immune to the virus.

Tran Van Tai (middle) and his teammates. Photo courtesy of Tai

Tran Van Tai (middle) and his teammates. Photo courtesy of Tai

Tai became a patient on July 19, and was quarantined for 14 days before going home to self-isolate for another two weeks.

"Seeing so many people fall seriously ill and die, I grew terribly sad. So when I recovered, I applied to join the fight against the pandemic."

To keep his family safe, he has rented a room and joined the volunteer group of Binh Duong Youth Union. His main job is to take samples, collect information, and input data.

At first, his parents opposed the idea since they were worried their son would be reinfected. Over time they have come to support his decision.

Locations for sample collection are not fixed, causing volunteers to toil under the scorching sun for hours. During breaks, they encourage each other to overcome difficulties and fulfill their tasks, despite the overbearing protective gear.

"Especially in a large, crowded area, we have to try to speak loudly, which can be tiring," Tai said.

Volunteer groups include many students, some of whom have lost family members to the pandemic.

One volunteer, whose wife and son live only seven kilometers away, has not seen his family since his recovery.

"This pandemic is dangerous, the number of cases is large, prolonged lockdown has weakened everyone's strength. I will help as long as I can, to share the burden with frontline workers," Tai stated.

Phuong (wearing white protective clothes) and volunteers in her team. Photo courtesy of Phuong

Phuong (wearing white protective clothes) and volunteers in her team. Photo courtesy of Phuong

Similarly, Tran Thi Phuong has volunteered at a medical center in Phu An Ward, Thuan An Town.

"If they've never been to the treatment area, it's hard for people to imagine the hustle and bustle of medical staff, or the devastation of the disease," Phuong commented. "Many people are healthy but suddenly become seriously ill and die very quickly. Others lie in the ICU for days without any contact with their families."

Phuong's first job as a volunteer was screening and separating patients from the community. This task requires volunteers to strictly follow disinfection and safety rules. Working in high-risk areas, they must leave the location immediately after finishing their job before resting or eating.

"Sampling times are not fixed - we go as long as we have a schedule. In the morning, after arrival, we divide into teams, receive protective gear, quick test kits, and prepare for work," Phuong said.

However, due to a large number of test samples and limited human resources, many volunteers are exhausted. Every three days, they must be tested to prevent the risk of infection among team members.

On Aug. 24, she applied for a position in the isolation area at Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City to support frontline staff.

Phuong keeps a positve mind while working as a volunteer. Photo courtesy of Phuong

Phuong keeps a positive mind while working as a volunteer. Photo courtesy of Phuong

Here, she is charged with managing more than 100 patients across two floors. Every day, she and her teammates check their health, measure their blood oxygen, give them medicine, help them breathe, and talk to them so they would feel less lonely.

For her, "this is a way to repay the those who saved my life."

"I hope that recovered patients and fully vaccinated people would share the burden with the health sector," Phuong maintained.

Apart from southern Binh Duong Province, more than 1,500 recovered Covid-19 patients have applied to support frontline workers in HCMC. Previously, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son encouraged recovered Covid-19 patients who had acquired temporary immunity from the novel coronavirus to assist in the recovery of others.

As of Wednesday, Vietnam has recorded over 412,650 recoveries in the ongoing wave, which started on April 27.

"We need your support during this decisive period, although we understand you need time to recover from this terrifying disease," Son said.

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