Vietnamese couple in Wuhan rescued before due date

By Phan Duong   March 26, 2020 | 07:45 pm PT
In the final days of pregnancy, the soon-to-be parents could not attend hospital to check on their baby as the coronavirus engulfed Wuhan.

"Prepare your stuff, there is a possibility you can return," the Vietnamese Embassy in China told Nguyen Van Phi on February 9.

"There is a hope to return," he told his wife in a rental apartment opposite an entrance gate of Wuhan University in China’s Hubei Province.

The 36-week pregnant Nguyen Thi Thanh tried to stay calm before starting to pack.

"Should we bring the baby stroller? No. The crib is also too big," Phi asked and answered himself in a rush. Meanwhile, Thanh packed clothes for their coming infant.

"We were so happy we hugged many times while packing," they recalled.

As Thanh was about to give birth, an obstetrician joined the flight from Wuhan to Vietnam to take care of her. When the flight touched down at Van Don International Airport in northern Quang Ninh Province, she was taken via ambulance to National Hospital of Tropical Diseases for quarantine in a special room equipped with an incubator. Everything was ready to welcome their new baby.

However, the couple could never forget what happened 20 days prior in Wuhan, epicenter of the novel coronavirus.

Thanh (L) and Phi prepare to exit quarantine on March 2, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Loc Chung.

Thanh (L) and Phi prepare to exit quarantine on March 2, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Loc Chung.

When the outbreak started, the couple decided to stay in Wuhan instead of going home for the Lunar New Year break in late January because they wanted to focus on studying.

"We did not think it was the epicenter," Phi, 27, said, adding there was limited information about the virus at the time. 

The master student had bought a lot of food before the break, thinking it would take time for local markets to restock after the long holiday. He also planned to visit some locations in the city with his wife.

At 10 a.m. on January 23, they both received messages saying Wuhan was under lockdown, and public transportation halted.

The couple remained indoors, donned masks, and checked their body temperature each morning. Phi habitually served his pregnant wife cups of warm water to prevent her throat from getting dry, opening the windows to improve air ventilation, even at 4 degrees Celsius outside.

He only ventured out once every two days to dispose of garbage while donning two layers of masks, gloves, and glasses.

The couple grew worried Thanh would not be able to attend hospital as the delivery day drew near, with no idea whether their baby had enough nutrition or amniotic fluid.

"I was anxious since I did not know where our baby would be delivered and how. My wife and the baby would be weak while the epidemic grew complicated, which was dangerous," said Phi, who listened for his baby’s heartbeats and kicks daily.

Many teachers who learned of their situation regularly checked on them, a professor even collecting masks on their behalf. Their parents in Vietnam also called several times a day.

Thanh and Phi felt better after connecting with the Vietnamese Embassy in China. Since, they could report their health status to a group of Vietnamese at noon every day. Phi received many updates from the embassy while studying at night.

"One time, the ambassador called at 1 a.m. and told me to stop worrying. He promised to take us home and reminded me to make my wife feel better by reading stories, doing yoga and listening to music," Phi recalled.

Their son was born on March 5, 2020. Photo courtesy of Thanh.

Their son was born on March 5, 2020. Photo courtesy of Thanh.

That day finally came, the couple was rescued after only three hours to prepare.

In the afternoon, waiting for the embassy’s bus to arrive, Thanh and Phi spotted no one in the quiet area around their university. With the metropolis deserted, Thanh could scarcely hold back her tears.

"Every night we listened to the words ‘Wuhan Jiayou’ (Wuhan hang in there) projected from many buildings nearby. We prayed for a miracle," Thanh said.

One day after arriving at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, Thanh finally had a doctor check on her baby. One month without any medical checks, she was like a cat on hot bricks.

"When the doctor said both of them were fine, I felt my burden ease," Phi declared. 

They spent 21 days in quarantine and did not give up on their studies. Apart from checking their temperature, Phi and Thanh also regularly checked for news on Wuhan.

March 2, when their quarantine ceased, they took the bus to a hospital in their hometown in central Nghe An Province.

Two days later, a baby boy was born. His name is Anh Vu. 

That day, spring started in Wuhan as the epidemic was contained.

Thanh and Phi cannot wait to continue their studies in China, now with a baby boy.

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