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Published: 14.04.2020
Orbis Purcell

Life changed for me and so many others on 23 January, the day before Chinese New Year, when Wuhan went into lockdown. In typical times, I work as a staff nurse on board Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital, helping to train nurses from around the world on the best practices they should follow in the operating room and during patient recovery. I remember coming home from Ghana in December, following my last Orbis programme of 2019. Everything still seemed normal then, but by the end of the month, we started to hear news about people coming down with an unknown source of pneumonia. Of course, we all know now what happened next.

I am used to working from my home in Wuhan between Orbis missions, so in some ways, being home has felt familiar, but of course, so much has changed. I have friends who are nurses on the frontlines. The circumstances they faced early in the outbreak here are like what many health workers around the world are facing now: working long hours in very difficult circumstances with limited supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). The saddest thing I heard was learning that some of my friends had started to wear adult diapers to avoid going through a change of PPE when they used the restroom, thus saving supplies. They are such great people. To protect others, they sacrifice a lot.

I’ve been very busy with work from Orbis. The time has flown because I feel I’m being useful. Sterilization and infection control are important aspects of what I always teach nurses, and these skills are more important now than ever. One nurse I trained previously reached out to me ask how she should prepare for a Coronavirus outbreak in her country. I have since worked with friends who are nurses on the frontlines to put together an article on the role of nursing infection control in hospital settings during COVID-19; it will soon be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. During this time at home, I’ve also been working with my fellow Orbis nurses to expand the training materials we have available for when we’re back on the Flying Eye Hospital.

As the virus has spread around the world, I have become very concerned about my friends globally as well, but I hope that people can find encouragement in life gradually going back to normal here. The first phase of lifting the lockdown has started. Public transportation has reopened, and employees whose responsibilities can’t be done remotely have been allowed to return to work. Personally, I have been very positive and tried my best to educate my family and friends on the importance of staying calm. We must keep the faith because we will win this battle against Coronavirus. There’s a good example of that here in Wuhan. We’re not completely there yet, but I’m very happy to see how far we’ve come.