"We have no complaints or regrets, because we are on the front line rescuing lives from SARS."
Wearing layer after layer of gauze masks, Cui Jingjing, a senior nurse from the prestigious Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, told reporters her story in a husky voice.
On April 29, Cui, was transferred along with her colleagues to the NO. 402 Hospital in the western suburbs of Beijing municipality.
The NO. 402 Hospital, which was not set up to specialize in treating contagious diseases, has been restructured exclusively for the intensive care of patients suffering from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Many doctors and nurses have been sent here from the Jishuitan Hospital, Union Hospital, and Railway General Hospital as part of a concerted campaign against the epidemic.
"At the beginning, I was a bit worried, but now I am getting used to it," said Wang Xue, a young nurse who has worked in the hospital for only a few days.
Wang, who graduated just last year, still looks very much like a high school student.
"Two nurses will be on duty here, looking after 19 patients," she said. "We draw blood from each patient, and when we finish the work on the last patient, we need to go back to the first one and change the transfusion bottle."
"We feel suffocated when we're working," Wang said candidly. The nurses here have to wear three layers of special clothing, gloves, and several gauze masks.
In some wards, the nasty odor of disinfectants still permeates." Sometimes it is really hard to breathe," she said.
Many nurses suffer husky voices from continuous shouting. There are several doors separating the quarantine area from the safety area, and electronic communications have not been installed yet.
"If a patient wants a jug of water, we have to shout at the topof our voices to tell those outside the quarantine area," Wang said. "We are under very heavy pressure."
"When we first arrived at this hospital, we worked for more than 30 straight hours," said Zhang Yi, another nurse.
Though wearing thick gloves and masks, the nurses manage to adhere to strict protocols while also offering a friendly chat to ease patients' psychological stress.
According to Tian Wei, president of the Jishuitan Hospital, stories reflecting the sacrifice of the doctors and nurses are innumerable. For instance, two young doctors in the hospital have postponed their wedding because of their work fighting SARS.
Though very busy, Cai, like other mothers, still worries about her own family. Facing the lens of a TV camera, Cui Jingjing offered words of advice to her 14-year-old son Tao Zheng.
"Don't worry about Mum, listen to your Dad, and take good care of your Grandma."
(Xinhua News Agency April 30, 2003)