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An ordinary surgeon's extraordinary experience with Ebola

(People's Daily Online)    09:46, August 15, 2014
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Cao Guang (Photo/Beijing Youth Daily)

Nineteen out of 1.3 billion Chinese have close access to Ebola, while Cao Guang, an ordinary surgeon, holds the distinction of having had the closest contact with it.

Ebola virus is a hidden danger in mysterious and fascinating Africa.

After carrying out an operation with a local surgeon, Cao received a message from the government of Guinea saying that Ebola appeared to have broken out. "That message transformed my daily routine," says Cao.

The message reminded him that he had treated a male patient who was suffering from stomach ache, hematemesis, fever and hypodynamia. Although Cao and his colleagues did everything they could for the man, their efforts were in vain and the 35-year-old man died. Cao still remembers the frightening red eyes of the patient. “His left eyeball was as red as a rabbit’s,” Cao recalls.

After the treatment, two of Cao’s colleagues felt tired and bean to lose their appetite, and one said he throught he might have a fever. Cao was worried that they might be infected with the Ebola virus as they had had close contact with the dead patient, as had he. They all underwent medical examinations.

All three of his colleagues were diagnosed with Zaire-type Ebola virus. The death rate from this strain of the virus is 90 per cent. Two other doctors and a nurse were also infected.

After that, Cao was isolated.

As a surgeon, Cao regards life and death as an everyday matter. But this time, Cao had to be ultra-cautious about the slightest change in his body. When he washed his face in the morning, he would check carefully to see whether there was blood in his eyes. Whenever he felt at all dizzy during the day, he would wonder whether that was a sign of the virus. When his temperature rose to 36.9 , Cao would become extremely anxious since the virus came accompanied by a fever.

Propelled by his fear, Cao forced himself to drink as much water as possible. Vitamins offered by his hospital in order to strengthen his immune systemwere precious to Cao. In isolation, Cao had little to do but twiddle his thumbs.

"Thanks to support and care from my colleagues and my family, and especially the leaders from Beijing Anzhen Hospital, Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, and the Ministry of Health, I came through the period of isolation," says Cao.

Every day at 9 p.m., Cao would report his temperature to his parents in China. That was 5 a.m. in China. Cao's wife was terrified when she heard that Cao's colleagues had died from the Ebola virus. His son burst into tears when he was told about Cao's situation in Africa. "That was the first time he cried for his family," says Cao. "My son is growing up."

"I think the happiest and most wonderful thing in the world is simply to be alive," said Cao, when his isolation came to an end.

The article is edited and translated from《隔离埃博拉 骨肉牵连生死依》, source: Beijing Youth Daily, author: Cao Guang, a surgeon to Guinea from Beijing Anzhen Hospital

(Editor:Yuan Can、Gao Yinan)

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