Between life and death: Stories from a Wuhan ICU
By Tao Yuan

Someone once wrote: "We live in the space between one breath and the next."

For critical COVID-19 patients, that next breath may never come.

Standing in the ICU wards, I couldn't help staring at their faces, lifeless. Most patients were on life support, unconscious.

I wondered what they were like just a few short months, weeks, or even days ago.

How did they live?

What did they do?

Who did they love?

A grandpa was one of the few conscious patients in the ICU. He wanted to drink water. By the time the nurse fetched it to him, he died.

Once you're here, the odds are against you of getting out alive.

A 40-percent chance, at best.

For one month, we filmed in the ICU wards of Wuhan Red Cross Hospital, one of the first batches of seven hospitals in the city enlisted as COVID-19 treatment facilities.

We've witnessed the fragility of human life, yes.

But also its resilience.

One patient made a miraculous recovery.

Dr. Huang Xiaobo sang a tune about spring blooms in the ward.

He's a volunteer medic from southwest China's Sichuan Province who came to Wuhan’s aid, an intensive care pro who has fought many infectious disease outbreaks.

"Miracles like this makes me want to sing and drink," he said.

Moments like this is what's kept them going for two months in the harsh reality of the ICU.

There's no specific treatment for COVID-19.

Much of it is supportive care, to allow time for the patients' own immune system to recover.

What's left to do is to hope and believe.

Some patients refuse having breathing tubes put down their throat as part of the treatment.

It's a loss of dignity for them.

"Isn't to live the most dignified thing to do?" a young nurse asked.

"I don't know," answered Dr. Huang. "I don't know."

"But I've come to learn one thing - don't put too much faith in what the drugs or machines can do. Believe in the patient."