The number of COVID-19 patients in severe and critical conditions in Wuhan, the former epicenter, has dropped significantly to less than 200 from a peak of over 9,000, with around 100 turning from severe to mild conditions each day since last month.
“We’ve waited for this moment for so long,” said the medics dispatched from Shanghai to assist Wuhan’s COVID-19 fight in the field hospital Leishenshan on April 5, looking at the respirators and injection pumps that are no longer in use there. Just one day before, the hospital merged its two ICU wards as the number of severely ill patients kept declining.
The treatment of severely ill patients is a hard nut to crack, because most severe COVID-19 patients are seniors with underlying diseases. The COVID-19 disease developed rapidly on them, posing huge challenges to the treatment.
On March 12, Wuhan started to transfer severe COVID-19 patients to higher-level hospitals and inpatient areas managed by medical teams dispatched from state-level hospitals, in an effort to concentrate better medical resources and elite medical groups and make more thorough plans for the treatment. The medics did their best to save the patients as long as there was still a ray of hope.
On March 21, a 70-year-old seriously ill COVID-19 patient was successfully rescued at Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital with a veno-arterial-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VVAECMO) machine, which is useful for patients with underlying heart and lung diseases.
Before the treatment, the patient was in shock and the chance of successful rescue was only 5 percent. To turn hope into reality, 12 experts from Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei and Inner Mongolia were called up to work together on his treatment.
“Putting lives first means to fearlessly tackle all the difficulties and ignore the costs related to the treatment. To save patients’ lives, we’ll use all medicines and make all necessary equipment available, regardless of the price,” said Liu Jihong, president of the Optical Valley Branch of Tongji Hospital affiliated to Huazhong University of Science and Technology. The hospital has successfully treated 1,462 COVID-19 patients and 21 ECMO equipment were available for use during peak COVID-19 season.
On April 1, a 77-year-old patient surnamed Liu was discharged from Tongji Hospital affiliated to Huazhong University of Science and Technology after 52 days of treatment. Liu was one of the most critically ill patients the hospital has admitted.
“His was at a higher risk because besides COVID-19, the elderly patient also has high blood pressure and diabetes,” said Lyu Guoyue, head of the medical team in charge of severely ill COVID-19 patients dispatched from the First Hospital of Jilin Hospital in northeast China’s Jilin province. On Feb. 18, Liu developed arrhythmias and was in a critical situation.
“A professor from our team, who was not on duty that day, told the nurses to take the patient’s blood samples, give him injections, and preform chest compressions on him through a video call,” Lyu said, adding the patient’s condition was closely observed throughout the night.
According to Lyu, the conditions of critically and severely ill COVID-19 patients change very fast, so the treatment plans must be made in detail and even be adjusted at any time of the day. In addition, breathing machines, medicines, adequate nutrition and around-the-clock care are also essential for treatment.
To grasp the disease trends increases the chance for successful treatment. To promote unimpeded communication between doctors, an audio and video conferencing platform was established, which connects inpatient wards with medics’ offices and residences, enabling the medical staff to monitor the patients anytime via their cell phones, even when they are off duty. With the platform, medics could provide real-time consultation for patients.
The duration of treatment for severely and critically COVID-19 patients is longer and the treatment more difficult. Therefore, doctors must make comprehensive and targeted solutions, and in particular tailor treatment plans for these patients.
“To improve the efficiency of treatment, we’ll check all severely and critically ill patients on a daily basis, closely monitor their vital signs, measure the oxygen saturation of their blood, check if they have breathing difficulties and assess the risks. Based on these, we then adjust the treatment plan tailored for each patient,” said Han Chuan’en, head of the medical team dispatched by the First People’s Hospital of Shangqiu, central China’s Henan province.
Han noted that to discover signs of organ dysfunction and take preventive measures is an important way to reduce the mortality rate of patients with severe and critical conditions. To cure a patient, treatment accounts for 30 percent while nursing accounts for 70 percent, and it has become a routine practice to provide around-the-clock care for severely and critically ill patients.
More and more COVID-19 patients are being discharged from hospitals in Wuhan. The 32-ward Leishenshan hospital now has only one ward open to handle patients with severe and critical conditions and a normal ward, and the number of patients admitted by the hospital has dropped to 47 from 2,000. Latest statistics from the National Health Commission indicate that the recovery rate of critically and severely ill COVID-19 patients has been lifted from 14 percent to 88 percent.
A severely ill COVID-19 patient and a medic give thumbs-up to each other in an intensive care unit of Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, April 2, 2020. Wang Haoyu/People’s Daily Online