Healing, hope — Thai medical workers braving COVID-19 impact to save lives

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(Xinhua) — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage in Thailand, medical workers have been working tirelessly on the frontlines, saving lives and delivering hope in the grave situation.

Thana Khumyong, 42 years old, is one of the hundreds of thousands of medical workers fighting on the frontline of Thailand’s COVID-19 battle. Many of them have made difficult decisions and stopped seeing their partners and families for fear of contaminating them with coronavirus.

As an emergency room (ER) doctor, Thana has not been back home for more than a year. “Most of my colleagues, whether they are nurses or ambulance staff, have made the same decision like me. It is tough. But we don’t want to put our families at risk as many of them have not been vaccinated,” he said.

Although Thana tried to spare some time to meet with his mother and other family members online everyday, he felt bad that he could not hug them and support them during hard times.

The Pra Nang Klao hospital where Thana works is located in Nonthaburi province, 23 km north of the Thai capital Bangkok. From Aug. 3, the province and 28 other worst-hit provincial regions by the pandemic had been put under partial lockdown to contain the fast spread of the viral disease.

On Thursday, a record 20,920 new COVID-19 cases brought the total number of infections in the Southeast Asian country to 693,305, with the cumulative fatalities rising to 5,663.

The months-long surge in infections has been overwhelming the country’s medical system.

“Honestly, we are all so tired and stressed. We are overloaded with work as some doctors and nurses are undergoing self-quarantine after showing COVID-19 symptoms,” Thana said. But he tried his best to support his colleagues and help his patients feel better.

He said doctors and nurses at the emergency department are at high risk of infection because of surging COVID-19 patients and lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

As the hospital is facing a shortage of beds, Thana said the emergency department had to set up two temporary isolation rooms where there were no toilets, leading to an embarrassing situation — some patients have to wear adult diapers.

“We are running out of stock (of adult diapers),” Thana said, adding that he launched a fund-raising drive online to collect adult diapers, which had received positive feedback.

Darunee Sasanakun, a 56-year-old ER head nurse, said the pressure is starting to wear her down, but she tried to gather her strength to be a role model for young nurses.

“We don’t see the end of the pandemic, and we have to try harder to keep everyone in the ER motivated. We have to protect ourselves from falling sick or getting infected, then we can take care of the patients,” Darunee said.

“We are tired, but we will not give up, because there’s always hope beckoning you from ahead,” she said calmly with a smile.

The number of people being hospitalized remained high at 87,150 in Thailand, with hundreds of thousands receiving treatment in field hospitals, according to data from the Ministry of Public Health.

“I hope everyone takes the best care of themselves and strictly observe all measures to halt the spread of COVID-19,” Thana said. Although the pandemic is still far from over, he said, if everyone is responsible and cooperative, he could be more optimistic about the future.

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