2008-05-08 07:44:05 Xinhua English
FUYANG, Anhui, May 8 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese media was full of news and comment this week about an ordinary doctor working on the front lines of the viral epidemic in east China.
Reporters and netizens were touched by the 50-year-old doctor, Liu Xiaolin, working amid the outbreak of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) in Fuyang, a city in Anhui Province.
"Without Liu's early report, no one knows how many more children would have died," said Feng Lizhong, deputy director of the media affairs bureau of the provincial health department.
The HFMD epidemic, in many cases triggered by the potentially fatal EV71 enterovirus, had led to 30 deaths in China as of Thursday afternoon, according to Xinhua's tally of confirmed death reports from provincial-level health bureaus.
The People's Daily published a commentary, "Greetings to you, Fuyang's Liu Xiaolin," which echoed what local people had said: Liu is the Zhong Nanshan of Fuyang.
Zhong is the Guangzhou doctor who was a hero in the fight against SARS in 2002.
"She could have been blamed for barking up the wrong tree and hurting the image of Fuyang People's Hospital, one of the best in the city. But she felt she had no choice," writer Shan Juan said in a story headlined "Doctor makes right call on mystery deaths" in the China Daily.
The Beijing Times said in a feature story that it was the conscience and courage shown by taking responsibility that had made Liu different from some other doctors and officials.
A netizen in Guangdong suggested Liu as one of top 10 figures Touching China 2008. "You are the real angel," said the netizen of Liu, in a web posting.
The doctor in the spotlight had never imagined an ordinary night shift could uncover a grave disease.
When she arrived at Fuyang Municipal People's Hospital on March28, pediatrician Liu saw two children with the same symptoms. It looked like lung infections, but something wasn't adding up.
"One child's condition suddenly worsened as we were bustling about. I performed artificial respiration immediately, but half an hour later, the child died," Liu said.
Meanwhile, the other worsened. "We started resuscitation at 6:30 p.m. but we had lost the two children before 7:30 p.m.," Liu said.
A nurse came to Liu and said that yet another child died from similar symptoms. She immediately put the three cases together.
But their symptoms led to conflicting conclusions.
The experienced doctor was confused. "Usually, 98 percent of pneumonia cases can be cured. I've never seen the same situation in my 20 years of work," she said.
The confusion put Liu on alert. She telephoned the head of the hospital at midnight and the director of the disease control center at 6 a.m.
Liu said she knew that she was risking the reputation of her hospital, which is famous in Fuyang.
"But I cannot wait and watch children die. Nothing can be compared to the flower-like lives of children," Liu said.
Her efforts caught the attention of the local authorities, and experts arrived the same day.
Since then, Liu has been fighting the epidemic from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"Liu Xiaolin is always on alert regarding children's diseases but takes less care of herself. In 1999, she came back to work soon after her cancer operation and chemotherapy," said Liu's colleague, Mao Guoshun.
Liu was also the first to reveal the cause of the "big head babies" in 1999. She noticed many babies she saw had enlarged heads and connected the phenomenon to malnutrition caused by substandard powdered milk. Liu paid the cost of examining the milk powder herself on behalf of poor parents.
Another colleague, Li Yaowen, said at that time Liu worked around the clock for months as 300 children were affected by the substandard milk, even losing 5 kilograms.
A netizen in Chengdu said: "I was in tears reading Liu's story. Please protect her and free her from night shifts."
But Liu was back at the hospital at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
"She just left in the afternoon and came back quickly. Being with her, doctors, nurses and patients all feel much more at ease," said a night shift doctor, Zheng Gaomei, who slowed her steps when she saw Liu.
Liu walked quietly to keep quiet in the emergency section for EV71 infected patients.
"I simply come here to take care of the children. I like hearing them call me 'granny'," Liu said with a smile.