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[REPORT FROM HONG KONG]Front-line heroes against SARS

May 17,2003
The people of Hong Kong, now engaged in a war against SARS, recently got more sad news. A female doctor who had worked at Tuen Mun Hospital in Kowloon died of SARS on Tuesday. The doctor, Tse Yuen-man, 35, came down with SARS while she was treating other victims and had been fighting her illness since then.
Ms. Tse is not the first medical practitioner in Hong Kong who has died from SARS. A physician in his 50s and a male nurse in his 30s had died before her.
Among the 374 Hong Kong doctors and nurses who have been infected with the SARS virus, more than 10 are in critical condition.
Hong Kong people have responded with a public outpouring of sympathy over the death of Ms. Tse because she showed a brave heart and made many sacrifices as a doctor. The hospital where her funeral service was held was awash with floral tributes. Written eulogies saying, “You are a hero,” and “Hong Kong will be proud of you forever,” were in evidence everywhere.
Tung Chee-hwa, the chief executive of Hong Kong, said, “Hong Kong will never forget her.”
She volunteered to work at the hospital’s SARS wards right after the syndrome erupted all over Hong Kong. While working at the emergency room, she also rode ambulances to care for SARS victims in urgent need. A 56-year-old patient who was one of her patients recalled, “When I suddenly had a respiratory problem on a visit to China, she came to me with immigration documents at night.”
Her marriage was full of love as well. She married a man whom she met after her graduation from the medical school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a prestigious medical school.
Even though she knew her fiance was afflicted with leukemia and probably would not live a full life, she married him in late 2000. Her husband, also a doctor, died less than two years after the wedding.
In Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China, where SARS is raging, the response of doctors and nurses has been heroic. Although there were cases in which doctors and nurses disappeared after the outbreak of SARS, those instances were few. Most medical practitioners have been sacrificing themselves to fight the disease. They are the real heroes and heroines on the SARS front lines.


by Lee Yang-soo

The writer is the Hong Kong correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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