Diary of a doctor at the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic

Update: October, 08/2021 - 07:52


Doctor Đào Huy Hiếu checks up on a young COVID-19 patient in HCM City. Photo courtesy of Đào Huy Hiếu

Thu Vân

Đào Huy Hiếu, a doctor at the 108 Military Hospital, was sent to support the frontline teams at the epicentre of COVID-19, HCM City. He and his colleagues left Hà Nội for HCM City only a day after receiving the request. In HCM City, his team was located at a secondary school in Tân Bình District and tasked with providing check-ups, treatment and consultancy to home-based COVID-19 patients. He wrote about the days he fought the virus to save patients alongside with other doctors. 

Hà Nội, August 19, 2021

My teammates and I gathered at the Military Medical University to depart for HCM City. We accepted the mission and will complete it as usual. COVID-19, we will defeat you.

Sài Gòn, August 21

Sài Gòn welcomed me with afternoon rain that suddenly come and go like sadness.

But the rain this afternoon feels sadder. The city is not as busy as usual. Instead, it was a quiet, bleak scene. Sometimes the sirens of ambulances running backwards and forwards are like rubbing salt into the wounds of the people living here.

The doors were ajar, and looming behind them were the anxious eyes of each family, the grief of each family whose loved ones had recently died because of COVID-19.

August 22

As soon as I started as head of the mobile medical station, I and my colleagues had our first patient right away.

It was an 86-year-old woman with multiple underlying conditions who had been infected with COVID-19.

When I arrived, the patient's condition was very serious. The patient was lethargic, had severe shortness of breath, had pink foam in her mouth, blood pressure dropped to 80/50, her Spo2 indicator was between 84-85 per cent.

As I contacted hospitals, all were full.

Fortunately, I have prepared some emergency medicine (these drugs are only used in the hospital for emergencies).

After carefully explaining to the family about the prognosis of the disease, I immediately gave first aid with diuretics, vasodilators, corticosteroids and anticoagulation, and gave the patient an oxygen mask.

Fortunately, the patient showed signs of recovery.

August 23

Doctor Đào Huy Hiếu (right) checks the oxygen cylinders while talking to a COVID-19 patient treated at home. Photo courtesy of Đào Huy Hiếu

The patient’s family informed me that she was better, and her spirit was also better. I advised the patient to go to the hospital for further treatment.

But the person at the other end of the line replied: 'My mother said she wants you to continue treatment for her.”

August 25

After two days lacking staff, three military medical students were sent to my team for support. We now have six people.

In the following days, our phones kept ringing non-stop. On some days, we saw and treated 20 patients, and then took samples from up to 1,000 patients.

Due to the nature of mobile treatment, there is no fixed working time. Early in the morning, late at night, as soon as patients called, we’re on the road. We receive the most calls during mealtimes. So very often, we have to go before we finish our food.

September 3

Usually, on a holiday like this (September 2 is Việt Nam’s Independence Day), we will sit down and brag to each other about a happy holiday with relatives and friends. But not this time.

Perhaps now everyone in the country is waiting for one day when the radio and television say "zero cases, no deaths, and the last patient is finally discharged."


This season is probably the most beautiful season of the year in Hà Nội. I often take the children to buy clothes and books to prepare for the new school year. The children would stay awake late because they look forward to the morning to go to the new school year ceremony where they could see their teachers and friends again.

But now it's a dream. A dream that seemed too simple yet too luxurious at this moment just because of the damn virus called COVID-19.

I miss the children so much my tears were falling.

September 4

So, it's been two weeks since I went to Sài Gòn. Yesterday I found my wallet in my backpack. I haven’t touched it for two weeks.

You might ask me how come I don’t need the wallet for two weeks?

For the past two weeks, I am fed by the locals. They give us cakes and fruits, sometimes they give us boxes of sticky rice or delicious Vietnamese sandwiches.

Money is not so important anymore. People give each other whatever they have without hesitation, and they return with words of gratitude and wishes for each other's health.

September 11

Today, I don’t feel very well. The quick test said I am positive for COVID-19. I think I got the virus the other day when I was checking on COVID-19 patients and it started to rain. My protective gear got wet. I might have been negligent.

Fortunately, I was just a little tired and had a slight fever, nothing serious. The work is too much, I can’t let my colleagues work harder. 

So I still work, and have no days off at all.

September 25

When I'm busy, I don’t feel homesick. But when I have a little time to rest, I crave the feeling of eating with my family. Worrying about my children's studies makes me insecure.

At this time, if I were at home, after dinner, I would sit at the table to study with the kids.

September 28

We’re having more positive signs day by day. The number of new cases is decreasing, the number of deaths is also declining. A lot of F0s being treated at home have recovered. My heart is filled with optimism.

Yesterday my wife sang a song called “The song of hope”, recorded it and sent it to me. 

October 6

Things have been much better. In the past two days, we haven't had any new cases in Ward 12 of Tân Bình District where I am located. 

I don’t know when I can go home, but surely after all other forces have left the city. We’re so happy, anyway, and can’t wait to go back to Hà Nội to our families. VNS