Dying a desperate death: the terrible experience of the Wuhan family coronavirus

BEIJING: There were no doctors, nurses or medical teams in the hotel turned into temporary for suspected coronavirus patients when brothers Wang Xiangkai and Wang Xiangyou arrived two weeks ago.

The next day, Xiangkai, 61, woke up and discovered that Xiangyou, 62, had died.

The Wang are among tens of thousands of families devastated by the coronavirus in Wuhan, where the medical system has been overwhelmed by the outbreak, despite huge reinforcements and two new hospitals that were quickly built.

What did we do to deserve such punishment? Wang Wenjun, Xiangkai's daughter, told Reuters by phone.

A crematorium sent a car to pick up Xiangyou's body, but the family was told that a grieving ceremony would not be allowed. They could only collect their ashes after 15 days.

Two days before Xiangyou's death, doctors at the 4th Wuhan Hospital had written in a diagnosis that both brothers were probably infected with the coronavirus that has now killed more than 1,350 people in China. CT scans showed that his lungs had turned white with patterns that resemble broken glass, symptomatic of serious viral infections.

But the hospital did not have any RNA test kit to confirm their cases and, therefore, could not admit them for treatment, according to doctors. They were told to contact the government of their community, which on January 30 offered to house the brothers in the hotel.

Hubei Province reported on Thursday a sharp increase in the number of deaths and cases after changing its methodology to include those diagnosed by CT scans such as Xiangyou. More than 63,000 people have been infected throughout the country and 1,380 have died.

Xiangkai, a retired taxi driver, refused to stay at the Echarm hotel after his brother's death, instead of being left alone in a relative's house. His wife visited him daily, bringing Chinese food and medicine, until she also became ill with what doctors suspect is the coronavirus.

Wenjun lives on the other side of Wuhan. Closed transportation lines mean that you cannot visit your parents.

Desperate for her father's treatment, she made a request for help on Weibo, similar to Twitter. The community government responded, saying the decision was up to the virus.

Around midnight on Monday, the family received a call saying there was a hospital bed available. Without public transportation, Wang's wife, 58, pushed him in a wheelchair for the 10-minute trip to the hospital.

A new CT scan showed that Xiangkai's lung infection had worsened. Now he has trouble walking alone to the bathroom and is waiting for the results of an RNA test.

On January 22, our whole family had a Lunar New Year dinner, and we even took a picture together. It has been bad news every day since then, Wenjun said.