China: Jihui Zhang

Let us give others convenience, and give ourselves difficulties; give others happiness, and give ourselves sadness; give others safety, and give ourselves risks.

— Jihui Zhang

Zhang Jihui is a head nurse in the general ward of the No. 1 Hospital in Guangzhou City. During the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) in China in 2003, she accepted the assignment to work in the temporary Sars ward without hesitation. She worked 12 to 16 hours per day for 83 days without adequate supplies of oxygen and water. She served patients selflessly with love and courage. Her efforts have deeply impressed each of her patients, who come to understand what an "angel in white" really means.

In spring 2003 China witnessed the outbreak of the contagious epidemic disease Sars and the situation in Guangdong Province was one of the worst since this was where the first Sars case occurred. As a nurse with 20 years’ experience in No. 1 People’s Hospital, Zhang Jihui was appointed one of the head nurses in the Sars ward. She took good care of the patients, trying to familiarize herself with the subject of epidemic diseases, while immediately warming to her work under these special circumstances. She carried out antisepsis and isolation work, resulting in a zero record of cross contamination among patients in the ward. Furthermore, none of the medical personnel was affected. Her selfless and courageous actions influenced other nurses who gradually overcome their fears. The doctors and nurses called her “the pillar in the ward.” Being overburdened by work for a long period, Zhang came down with a fever but took medicine secretly and continued to work. She worked in the Sars ward for nearly three months. She says, “What I thought about most was how to keep myself going without fear. Seeing my colleagues fall ill one after another, I thought of finding the most effective way to rescue them as soon as possible. I kept records 24 hours a day, every week. At that time I worked over 16 hours a day, which gave me swollen feet and an aching back. I longed to sleep.” Zhang always kept a pen and paper with her to record the events that occurred in the ward. Later these stories were published as a book called "Diaries of the Head Nurse," which became a valuable piece of documentation in the battle against Sars. Zhang said: “it was this ‘masking spring' which pushed me from being an ordinary nurse to the forefront of society. The honor should go to all the courageous medical personnel.”

No. 1 People’s Hospital in Guangzhou City