Wuhan Case Files

Four medical workers share stories from the heart of China’s COVID-19 epidemic.

Late last year, reports of an “unknown pneumonia” began trickling out of the central city of Wuhan.

Things moved slowly at first, then quickly. By the time the local government declared a state of emergency in late January, hundreds — possibly thousands — were sick or dying.

Many of them were local doctors and nurses. Caught unaware and left to treat patients without proper protection, large numbers soon succumbed to the coronavirus. Finally recognizing the full scope of the disaster, China’s health authorities mobilized 42,000 health care workers from all over the country to fortify the region’s hospitals.

It’s become commonplace to laud those who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as heroes. In doing so, however, it can be easy to miss what makes them human. They are wives and husbands, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers. They might risk their lives to save a stranger at one moment, and then in the next be overcome with guilt at the thought of what would happen to their loved ones if something were to go wrong.

To get a better understanding of the sacrifices it took to save an ailing city, Sixth Tone’s Cai Yiwen interviewed four health care workers who either live or served in Wuhan.

These are their stories.