Whistleblower Li Wenliang’s final resting place is this cemetery. He practiced medicine in Wuhan, China. Additionally, he was among the first in the world to raise the alarm about an impending SARS-like virus before he passed away at the age of 34. In the last few weeks of his life, he rose to fame and played a variety of roles, including patient, victim of censorship, and hero to many. Almost two years after his passing, Dr. Li is still a stirring personality in China. His Weibo page typically receives hundreds of comments every week and has developed into a platform for tributes and the sharing of private narratives.
According to a government probe, Dr. Li’s passing was tragic and he shouldn’t have been punished for speaking out. However, a more thorough account of his medical care and the way the authorities handled him has remained elusive. The Times has conducted an exclusive interview with a Doctor colleague who was on the front lines of the battle against covid to fill in some of the gaps. He requested to remain unnamed. He offered a first-rate account of the choices taken in Dr. Li’s final moments.
“after about two hours trying to resucitate him, his heart hadn’t restarted, he was already a dead person.” — Dr. B (a colleague of Dr. Li Wenliang).
The hospital where Dr. Li worked also provided internal documents, as well as his daily progress notes and prescriptions, all of which were validated by several experts and compared to publicly available data from Chinese media. We didn’t find any proof that his medical care was jeopardized. However, these records, combined with Dr. B’s testimony and in-depth research, shed vital new light on his condition and treatment. Together, they depict how Dr. Li spent his final 39 days battling a dangerous infection and avoiding attempts by the authorities to suppress him.
His great influence on me is what once he said, “A HEALTHY SOCIETY SHOULD NOT HAVE JUST ONE VOICE.” — Dr. B
Li Wenliang never intended to come out with information. In late December 2019, while employed as an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, he began exchanging information with friends in a closed group chat. “Huanan Seafood and Fruit Market has seven confirmed SARS,” read one post. A screenshot of this group chat was leaked to the public, and he also supplied a picture of a sequencing report that said, “SARS-like corona virus.” The mere mention of SARS made many anxious because it brought to mind the terrible disease that ravaged China in 2003.
Authorities made behind-the-scenes attempts to manage the message as the official Covid case number increased. One of their initial targets was Dr. Li. He was still unknown to the general public at this point. He was required to submit a formal apology for spreading misinformation on December 31 by hospital administrators. He expresses his profound remorse for the harm he had caused in the document, which is now being made public for the first time. Dr. Li was forced to sign a statement vowing to stop spreading rumors by the local authorities. On that day, Wuhan’s health officials officially insisted that there was no evidence that this new illness could spread between people.
Dr. B, who was working on the front lines at Wuhan Central hospital, was one of the city’s doctors who was witnessing a very different scenario develop.
“one patient of ours was diagnosed as having lung infection. The people who came totransfer this patient were all in those hazmat suits. The kind i’ve only seen in moveies.”
He was one among the very first medical professionals to ever administer care to a Covid-19 patient. He requested anonymity out of concern for the Chinese government’s retaliation.
“Why is everyone so nervous about this patient? Why does the hospital repeatedly tell us not to spread a word about this? they even asked us not to mention it to friends on wechat.
Twelve days after Li Wenliang’s letters went public, authorities continued to maintain that there was no proof the virus was contagious. They further asserted that no medical personnel had contracted the infection. Both were untrue.
“When this news came out, a few doctors in my office were upset, saying how could there be no human transmission? entire families came to our emergency room with same disease.”
At that time, several of the hospital’s medical staff had already contracted the infection.
Dr. Li was one of the affected medical personnel. By. He suffered a fever on January 11, over two weeks after his mails had been exposed. a CT scan revealed several lung infections.
He checked-in Wuhan Central Hospital on January 12. Although there were more instances of COVID being treated in Wuhan hospitals every day, there had been no new cases recorded by the authorities for several days.
The Times was able to get internal memos from Wuhan Central Medical that show there was a convoluted procedure in place for hospital workers. Shifting directives from district level, city level, and province level bureaucracy governed approvals to report new cases.
It seemed like Dr. Li’s own situation was becoming worse. He was having both physical and mental difficulties. According to the medical data we were able to collect, he was also diagnosed with depression on January 19 in addition to having acute pneumonia. We created exact copies of the documents while excluding information that would identify the source. To protect Dr. Li’s privacy, several passages were also blacked.
On January 20, a turning moment occurred. The authorities officially admitted that the virus was communicable for the first time. “It is definitely contagious among humans. There is definitive evidence of this from Wuhan,” according to top government-appointed scientist Dr. Zhong Nanshan.
The quantity of patients with COVID symptoms quickly overran Wuhan hospitals.
Wuhan as a whole went into lockdown shortly after. Dr. Li had to be taken to intensive care as this was going on. He took the crucial choice to tell his experience to the public while still in the hospital.
He claimed to be the Wuhan doctor who received a reprimand from the authorities in an interview he gave under the alias “Covid” to a Chinese newspaper. He revealed his name and identify on his Weibo account a few days later.
Finally, the public learned more about this enigmatic physician and began to inquire about his health. He was revered by them as a sort of folk hero, and they were enraged by the way the authorities punished him. In the following week, his condition didn’t seem to improve.
Dr. Wu Yuanfei, a virologist at UMass Chan Medical School, reviewd Dr.Li’s medical record for the Times.
“He was infected with an early variant of the virus. It of course, was life-threatening, and it developed really fast.”
Seven Chinese medical professionals who are living in the United States who either used to practice medicine in China or have experience treating Covid patients here were also given access to Dr. Li’s medical records by The Times in addition to Dr. Wu. They all agree that Dr. Li’s care was not rendered with willful carelessness. additionally, there is no proof that medical professionals had political agendas.
Dr. Yuan Jin, a pulmonologist and critical care physician from Good Samaritan Medical Center, said, “You get the impression that they were trying all they could, but nothing worked.”
However, the documents and Dr. B’s story provide more detail about his care and raise concerns about how the authorities announced their attempts to revive him. Li Wenliang’s condition deteriorated on February 5, 25 days into his hospital stay. The doctor’s order reveals that they performed several tests to check his heart and lung in the afternoon. By the morning of February 6, medical professionals noted in the progress notes that Li Wenliang was at a high risk of experiencing multiple organ failure and had seriously damaged lungs. Few interventions could have benefited him at this time, according to the majority of experts we spoke with, besides being immediately placed on an intrusive ventilator to facilitate breathing.
“Since you already tried a non-invasive ventilator the patient couldnt tolerate, and that you already tried the high flow oxygen for several days, it’s your time to consider intubation at that point.” stated by Dr. Yuan Jin.
Although we don’t know why, Dr. Li was not intubated. Some medical professionals are hesitant to intubate children. The patients themselves may decline it occasionally. There is still no agreement on when patients with Covid should utilize invasive ventilators.
The public was on edge as Dr. Li’s health was about to deteriorate. On February 6, around 7:20 p.m., Dr. Li suffered a heart arrest. The moment CPR was initiated, his medical staff followed standard procedure and intubated him as part of resuscitation. Dr. Li’s medical team debated placing him on an ECMO machine shortly after his resuscitation started. Some doctors have utilized the invasive life support device, which delivers oxygen to the blood, as a last resort for severely ill Covid-19 patients. At the start of the epidemic, Chinese media touted ECMO as a promising treatment, and a large portion of the populace was holding out hope despite the fact that its efficacy is still debatable.
Around 9 p.m., nearly two hours into the resuscitation, Dr. B came. The room contained an ECMO machine that was borrowed from another institution. He said that it was not in use. At that point, according to Dr. B, the medical staff in the intensive care unit believed that Dr. Li had already passed away clinically and that utilizing ECMO was pointless.
“The normal process at this point would have been to pronounce him dead. “
However, he claimed that hospital authorities requested the medical staff to use ECMO nonetheless in order to convey to the public that they did everything in their power to save Dr. Li.
“Someone took a call around this time and told us we have to continue the resuscitation because hospital leaders said so. Both out of medical and ethical concerns, ECMO shouldn’t be used at this point. It was just a rescue of the body. It was simply an act of buying time for the hospital administrators. Putting him on ECMO was actually an insult to his body”
The six doctors we spoke to all agreed that using ECMO would have been too late. Around midnight, Dr. B walked out of the room. He claims that the lack of an instrument for the operation prevented the use of ECMO. It’s not known if it was actually put to use after he left. The doctor’s directions from that evening make no mention of whether the procedure was ever carried out. However, the daily progress notes state that ECMO was utilized for some reason. We only discovered one other difference of this nature in the entire set of medical records. The procedure was carried out, according to a later investigation conducted by the government. Dr. B realized there was no hope as the search for the survivors went on.
“i think Dr. Li Wenliang had already died by the time i saw him around 9′ o clock on February 6.”
Dr. B’s statement is supported by an echocardiography result from around 9:10 p.m. on February 6. It was evident that his heart had stopped. A short while afterwards, the state-run newspaper Life Times stated that Dr. Li had passed away at 9:30 p.m. Dr. Li’s passing wasn’t made public by the hospital for a few more hours. He passed away, they claimed, at 2:58 a.m. Both Dr. B. and several others expressed dissatisfaction with the timing of the death notification.
“They dragged their feet for so long over the announcement. It’s like the hospital really did not treat us as human beings. I was just crying. I can’t describe how i felt. It was like something in me crumbled.”
The death of Li Wenliang shocked the nation. Following online news of his passing, #freedomofspeech started trending on Weibo. They received countless views. Censors had taken them down a few hours later. The Chinese government is still actively policing online discussions regarding Dr. Li. They honored his death and designated him a national hero, but they frequently punish others who remember him as a victim of censorship. The Chinese government has kept the details of how it handled the pandemic secretly and changed them throughout the course of the two years since Li’s passing. The Times discovered that at least three significant Wuhan hospitals, including Wuhan Central Hospital, limited clinicians’ access to Covid-19 patient records from the early stages of the outbreak.
Dr. B is making an effort to tell his side of the story and preserve Dr. Li’s legacy by coming public with it.
“This will eventually disappear from public view. But i’ll always believe, even if others forget, I should leave the world with something.”
- YOUTUBE VIDEO: Inside the Final Days of the Doctor China Tried to Silence | Visual Investigations
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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