Since its outbreak, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has spread to every continent except Antarctica and has infected more than 4 million people worldwide. From cities shutting down, to education systems halting, to entire economies collapsing, there has been a torrent of panic and grief.
However, all across the world, ordinary humans have also been carrying out extraordinary acts of kindness to help others in need.
My 80-year-old grandparents live in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in China, and have been quarantined for three months. They did not dare to leave their home due to their frail health. As my grandpa joked, “I feel like a pig these days. All I can do every day is eat and sleep.”
We were constantly worrying about them and called them every single day. One day in mid-February, somebody in their apartment building got sick. Workers in hazmat suits carried the sick person into an ambulance, and barricaded the apartment building entrance door by hammering in wooden boards with nails. There were more than a dozen families living in the building, including my grandparents. People were terrified at what happened.
“How will you get food? Or take out the trash?” I frantically asked my grandparents over the phone.
The next day, my grandma sent my family and me a message:
“No need to worry! A small entrance to the apartment building was left open, guarded by a social worker sitting in a car wearing a hazmat suit and mask. The local community service staff brought fruits, vegetables, and meat donated by Wuhan University alumni to every family in the building. We were asked to leave our garbage outside the apartment doors every two days to be taken away and disposed of by the community service staff.”
After a few days, it turned out that the sick person tested negative for COVID-19; it was just the common flu. The barricade was then removed. In the past three months, my grandparents' friends, neighbors, and community social workers have continued bringing them food and caring for them like their own family. It is during challenging times like these in which ordinary people become extraordinary heroes to help others.
One touching story is about a 28-year-old Chinese young man named Jiang. Jiang lived in Dalian, a northern Chinese city more than 1,300 miles from Wuhan. On Feb. 15, he took a train on the route from Dalian to Changsha for a business trip. He mistakenly sat in a wrong train cabin, which was for passengers getting off at the Wuhan station.
Jiang found himself alone in Wuhan, the city where the COVID-19 outbreak had started, with nothing but his clothes and phone. He could not leave, as the city was in quarantine. He did not have friends or family to stay with or money to live in a hotel, and he was not allowed to leave Wuhan for at least a few weeks.
Jiang did not give up. He began to volunteer at a hospital so that he could have a place to live and meals to eat. Without any medical background, he received one day of training and started to work the next day as an assistant in the COVID-19 ward. He worked for over eight hours a day, collecting garbage, sweeping the floor, and disinfecting the hallway. Every time he entered a highly infectious area, he had to change his PPE suit and N-95 face mask.
The first time Jiang entered the rooms housing COVID-19 patients, he was terrified. His muscles seemed to be frozen. He tried holding in his breath and stayed in the hallway outside the rooms as long as he could. Other volunteers wore two layers of gloves, but he wore three layers and tied his cuffs tightly with tape, worrying that the virus might enter his body from the cuffs. Whenever he picked up items that a patient had used, such as a piece of paper, his heart raced in trepidation.
However, witnessing the kindness and devotion of everyone in the hospital soon changed Jiang. The doctors and nurses working ceaselessly day and night to not only treat, but also comfort and cheer on the patients brought him a glimmer of hope, that together they could conquer the virus.
The floor that Jiang worked on was administered by a volunteer medical team from Nanjing, one of the 346 medical teams with more than 40,000 doctors and nurses dispatched from other cities around the country to help Wuhan. Inspired by these brave, skillful, and hardworking doctors and nurses from Nanjing, he decided to stay longer. He was funny and spirited, and brightened the days of everyone around him. He became good friends with doctors, nurses, workers, and patients. They liked him so much that they even wanted to find a local girlfriend for him!
At first, Jiang had thought that he was very unfortunate to get stuck at Wuhan. However, later, he felt proud and joyful about his time fighting COVID-19 as a hospital volunteer in Wuhan, which would have a lasting impact on the rest of his life. His incredible acts of kindness and bravery are extremely powerful, motivating people around the world during these challenging times.
As COVID-19 spreads through the United States, we must prepare for the damage and havoc that the disease will wreak upon us. The pandemic will impact each and every one of us in some way or another.
Yet, we do not need to have riches or sophisticated medical knowledge to help out others and fight against the pandemic. Like Jiang, we can be our own heroes by keeping a positive attitude every day and reaching out to help people around us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already started, but together, we can all work to reduce its damage in our world.
Kyle Chen is a sophomore at Rock Bridge High School.