Clutching a hospital discharge certificate, the only infected patient of the novel coronavirus in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region walked out of an isolation ward and bowed low to the medical staff Wednesday afternoon.
"You cured my illness and treated me like family," the patient, surnamed Zhang, said to the doctors and nurses.
The 34-year-old man came from the city of Suizhou, central China's Hubei Province, the hardest-hit province amid the ongoing outbreak.
"I booked the train tickets and prepared to travel to Tibet during the Spring Festival holiday," Zhang recalled. He even visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, for business and bought some items that he might need in Tibet before his departure.
When his train left Wuhan on Jan. 22, he expected a wonderful journey in the remote and mysterious region.
"I didn't realize what the situation was at that time, and didn't know the strong human-to-human transmissibility of the virus," he said.
Zhang didn't feel sick on the train. It was only after he learned Wuhan was locked down that he realized the outbreak had become serious.
He arrived in Lhasa, capital of Tibet on Jan. 24, the eve of the Chinese New Year, and developed symptoms of atony, sore muscles, cough, and fever one day later. He checked his temperature, which was 38.1 degrees Celsius. He then decided to go to the hospital.
Based on the current knowledge, the incubation period of the virus can be as long as 14 days.
Zhang was confirmed to be infected with the new virus on Jan. 29 and was also the first and only confirmed case in the region.
"I had several nightmares that night, dreaming I was hopeless against the deadly virus. I felt great stress and was very upset," he said.
But the medical staff gave him meticulous care, encouraging him to fight against the virus and provided psychological counseling.
He remembered the head nurse Sonam Yangjen, a Tibetan, told him the good news about more and more cured patients reported across the country, and other medical staff continued to talk with and encourage him.
"No matter where you come from, you are my patient. We will do our best to cure you," said Hua Demi, head of an expert team that treated Zhang.
Zhang said he was deeply moved when the nurses checked on him in the ward at 3 a.m. and doctors took the risk of being infected by the virus and insisted to take care of him.
More than 150 medical staff from different ethnic groups participated in Zhang's treatment and based on Zhang's condition and the unique plateau climate, the hospital worked out a tailored therapeutic schedule for him.
Thanks to those efforts, Zhang's appetite improved a week ago. The head nurse brought him some homemade traditional yak broth to satisfy his hunger.
Zhang was discharged from hospital after an 18-day treatment at around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
"I sincerely thank the doctors, nurses and the Tibetan people," he said.
"After receiving treatment, the patient's temperature has returned to normal for 14 days, and two nucleic acid tests had negative results," said Puncog Zhaxi, president of the Third People's Hospital of Tibet.
"In accordance with the country's latest novel coronavirus pneumonia diagnosis and treatment scheme and consultation of an expert team, the patient has met the standard of cured and can be discharged from hospital," Puncog Zhaxi said.
As of Tuesday, Tibet hasn't reported any new or suspected cases or deaths caused by the virus for the 13th consecutive day.
On Feb. 8, 32 close contacts of Zhang had been discharged from their two-week isolated medical observation.
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