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Medical Staff's May Day Holiday in Quarantine Wards
While most Beijing citizens are relaxing at home during the five-day May Day holiday, nurse Zhang Jing is saving patients' lives in the quarantine wards in Beijing's No.402 hospital at the forefront of the fight against SARS.

"I'm too busy to remember it's May Day," said charge nurse Zhang Jing. During the past two weeks, Zhang and her 112 colleagues have been working in the quarantine wards for SARS patients day and night.

Zhang's husband didn't call her on May 1. "I guess he forgot it too," she said. Zhang said she told her husband not to call her too often because she was afraid she wouldn't have time to answer.

"Besides, the line is always busy with calls from patients' relatives," she said.

The No. 402 hospital, which does not specialize in infectious diseases, has just been refurbished to receive SARS patients.

Medical workers from Jishuitan Hospital, Peking Union Medical College Hospital and Railway Hospital came to treat the SARS patients.

"The distance between the SARS patients and us is close to zero," Zhang's colleague, Wang Xue said. Wang, 20, became a nurse last year and is still an intern. "I know it's dangerous, but I'm not scared anymore."

"My parents and friends all called me and told me to be careful," Wang said. She admitted she was a little bit homesick sometimes, but not during work.

Her shift is from 3:00 am to 8:00 am, and during the five hours, she and another nurse look after 19 patients.

Her holiday in the quarantine wards is nothing like any holiday Wang has ever had.

Wang said she used to go shopping with friends during holidays or go to amusement parks.

Now all she and her colleagues can do is stay in their dormitories watching TV or reading newspapers and magazines.

"It is boring but it is my job," she said.

Compared with Wang, nurse Zhang Yi seemed to be happier.

"My daughter called me on May 1. She told me to be careful and come back home soon."

Last night, Zhang didn't rest even for a minute since one of her patients, a 50-year-old woman with a mental disability, refused to sleep and kept on sitting up in bed.

"We had to stay beside her all night to prevent her from falling down on the floor."

Zhang said her family used to travel in the holidays, but now her husband, her daughter and she celebrated in three different places.

Zhang's husband has been on a business trip outside Beijing and her daughter is now taken care of by her neighbor. "My neighbor told me not to worry about my child and I really feel grateful for what they have done."

Like nurse Zhang Yi, Zhang Jing also misses her 10-year-old son.

"Even though I couldn't spend the holiday with my husband and my son, I don't feel sad," said Zhang Jing, "because I know they are safe at home".

(China Daily May 3, 2003)

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