Mai Anh Đức (first right) donates a disinfection booth and hand sanitiser to a hospital in Đà Nẵng in May, 2021. Photos courtesy of Mai Anh Đức
ĐÀ NẴNG — For Mai Anh Đức, a resident of Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng City, August 5, 2020 is a day he will never forget for the rest of his life.
It was the time when his city was mired in a COVID-19 outbreak, the second wave to hit the country. And all of a sudden, the 39-year-old man learned the news that he and his son were both positive with the potentially lethal coronavirus.
“I could not think of anything, it was just as terrible as the sky was falling in.” Đức, who runs a small company doing business in water purifying equipment, recalled.
“You cannot imagine. It felt like I was hanging up by a death sentence.”
Ironic as it may seem, it was also that day he was called by the post office to receive a machine making hand-sanitiser that he had borrowed from a friend in HCM City. His plan was to produce hand sanitiser to donate to medical workers on the frontline of the pandemic.
Đức said: “I had planned for it since the first days seeing my hometown becoming the hotspot of the pandemic. But then everything was messed up.
"My son and I were admitted to the hospital for treatment. All other family and company’s members became F1 and had to be quarantined."
Luckily for Đức and his son, they only developed mild symptoms and quickly recovered after receiving treatment from the medical workers at Hòa Vang Field Hospital.
“I was receiving great encouragement from all people there and feeling much more optimistic," he added.
“I also had a chance to witness the dedication and sacrifice of the medical workers there.
“At that time all the eyes were on Đà Nẵng. Everyday, I met medical workers coming from across the country, like Bạch Mai Hospital in Hà Nội, Chợ Rẫy in HCM City, Hải Phòng or Bình Định. All came to help out.
“I really admired them and more than ever craved to do something to pay back those medical workers on the frontline when I recovered.”
After being discharged from hospital, Đức did not waste any time and restarted his plan to produce hand sanitiser during the 14 days he had to quarantine at home.
A team of five members was formed consisting of Đức and other employees in his company. Đức gave directions to others from home and then joined the team after the quarantine ended.
He named it “Team 687” after the patient code he was given during the COVID-19 treatment time in hospital.
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From the small workshop at his house, more than 8,000 litres of qualified sanitiser water was made and delivered to many hospitals, quarantine areas, markets and pandemic control checkpoints in Đà Nẵng City and Quảng Nam Province.
But Đức did not stop there.
During his time in Hòa Vang Field Hospital, Đức noticed the importance of disinfection booths, a machine to spray disinfectant substance to a person's whole body.
With a background in engineering from Đà Nẵng University of Technology, Đức decided to produce this kind of machine for the hospital. He went online to research and connect with people working in the field.
Fortunately, a friend in Germany helped him with equipment to produce the first booth, which helps to make use of the hand sanitiser, turning the liquid they already produced into mist. This booth was later donated to Hòa Vang Field Hospital where he was treated. Later a person in HCM City offered a different system to make his device more effective.
But a problem came up.
“The cost for making a disinfection booth is high and it is also very bulky, making it hard for transportation,” Đức said.
The mobile disinfectant machines invented by Đức and his team.
“I thought of modifying it and making a mobile device which is much cheaper and easy to move around. My purpose is to make as many machines as possible.”
With the help of his teammates and money donated by many others, Đức managed to create such a device which costs about VNĐ 8 million, half the price of the disinfectant booth.
When Đà Nẵng was hit in the fourth wave of the pandemic in the country in early May this year, Team 687 donated four mobile disinfectant machines to Đà Nẵng Lung Hospital and district health centres in the city.
More to be done
Members of team 687 pose for a photo next to a truck transporting their products to the hard-hit Bắc Giang Province earlier this month.
At the moment, Đức and his team are working around the clock despite busy daily routines to produce more hand sanitiser, disinfectant booths and mobile disinfectant machines to provide for hard-hit Bắc Giang and Bắc Ninh provinces.
“We spend the evening dealing with the company’s issues and use the whole of our free time to finish these machines. The schedule is quite tight but we are all trying our best and determined to fulfill the goals we have set,” Đức said.
Đức said he is deeply touched for the great deal of support he has received from other people.
“When I called for donations on Facebook, many people supported me," he said.
"When we did the campaign of donating 500 containers of hand sanitiser water, I did not have a car for transportation but a man was willing to use his pickup truck to transport them to all the places.”
Team 687 has managed to send eight mobile disinfectant machines and 1,500 litres of hand sanitiser water to Bắc Giang. And more are on the way.
A problem for the team is the long distance between Đà Nẵng and northern Bắc Giang and Bắc Ninh provinces, making the transportation very expensive and time-consuming.
“I hope that there are similar teams like ours or benefactors willing to help do this kind of work there. Then I am willing to provide technical support to help them produce such things over there. It will be much better.” Đức said. VNS