White-blouse heroes work to save people
15:06 | 18/03/2021
VGP – Doctor Pham Thi Huyen emphasizes that she and her colleagues are not interested in being heroes, they’re working for the sake of community through a sense of responsibility.               

Dr. Pham Thi Huyen collects test samples from a resident in Hai Duong City

Huyen, who works at the northern province of Hai Duong’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC), was only available to answer her phone after three missed calls for this interview at 10pm.

“People call us, the COVID-19 healthcare workers, the white-blouse heroes, but we have the same emotional feelings as other women. We worry about this new coronavirus and we also cry when we miss our kids,” said Huyen, a member of the Occupational Disease Department.

“We are working because we are doctors and it is our responsibility to the community. We are not heroes,” she said with a hoarse voice.

It is the third time the 39-year-old doctor has been part of the COVID-19 pandemic strategy. For the last two months, Huyen and her colleagues have been driving to districts to collect test samples. Then they return to the centre to label them and send them to a laboratory.

They get up at 6am preparing their gear to start a working day and only finish at 9pm. Sometimes they are woken up at 5am and are busy until midnight when there are special cases.

Having a meal at 1am is not unusual for Huyen, who usually takes a glass of milk and a small piece of bread as a kind of fast food when she is too busy.

“In the first days, the pandemic was spreading rapidly and the situation was serious. We had to work with tens of thousands of samples sent from hotspot districts and towns and also from other localities,” said Huyen.

“Sometimes we had so much to finish we had to sleep at our desks, giving us backaches for weeks. It was so painful we could not move.

“But looking at the huge volume of work, we bounced back to start over.”

The third wave of the pandemic has been more stressful because the UK variant spreads more quickly than the previous strains. Hai Duong faces a big battle due to outbreaks at its industrial zones

These areas are considered hotspots were tightly locked down as quickly as possible.

Racing against time the health officials have had no time to care about what time they are working, day and night.

“I only noticed that Tet (Lunar New Year) was approaching when I saw peach flowers on the street,” said Huyen.

“It was the 27th day of last lunar calendar month and I was on my way to Chi Linh District to take samples. Tet was very close and I had almost no idea,” she said.

It was also the first time she has celebrated the festival far from home. Different from previous years, her New Year’s Eve at Hai Duong’s CDC was celebrated in total silence because all the doctors and technicians were so tired after a long day processing thousands of samples.

“I cried when I saw my children on a video call that night. They were with their grandparents because we were not at home,” Huyen recalled.

“They were sad, I knew. But I had to hold back my feelings to encourage them, saying I would be home soon when the pandemic is over.”

We are not heroes

Huyen had to ask her mother-in-law help take care of her kids, and her younger sister is the online supervisor for their studies because she is too busy and her husband is a migrant worker in Chinese Taipei.

Putting her family aside Huyen considers her task the top priority because she knows that in this is a difficult time for everyone.

At the end of February, things were finally brought under control in the hotspots of Cam Giang and Chi Linh, but Huyen is still working hard as the situation in Kim Thanh District remains severe. At the same time, Hai Duong Province is conducting wide-scale testing for the novel coronavirus, with tens of thousands of samples per day.

The days are long and Huyen only just finds time to call her children because when she starts work they are still in bed, and when she finishes they have already gone to sleep.

She just makes use of lunch time to talk to them and encourage them.

“People call us ‘heroes’ but we are just doing our jobs taking care of people’s health,” Huyen said.

“Every delay can cause difficulty in contact tracing and locking down. If we need to we will work at 200 per cent of our abilities, ignoring our tiredness and the fact we are missing our children and scared of infecting our families and other people,” she said.

When asked about her wishes for Doctors’ Day (February 27) and Women’s Day (March 3), Huyen smiled and said she had no idea and does not care much about these events anymore.

“To me, stopping new cases is now the first concern,” said Huyen, who had just finished dinner at 9pm and was preparing her equipment for a trip to Kim Lien Commune in Kim Thanh District.

Her work, it seems, is never finished./.

By Thanh Hang

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