Beijing, China – It was in early January that Summer Yang first heard about a mysterious virus sickening people in her home city of Wuhan.
The 40-year-old property investor was concerned for her elderly parents. But authorities told the public on January 5 there was no evidence the new type of coronavirus could be transmitted from human to human.
So, Summer put her fears away.
Then, on January 17, Summer’s 64-year-old mother came down with a fever. Following a CT scan and a blood test, doctors said they suspected a coronavirus infection. The family decided to keep her at home, believing she was safer there.
A week later, soon after Chinese authorities confirmed human-to-human transmission and imposed a virtual lockdown on Wuhan and Hubei province in an effort to contain the virus, Summer’s 65-year-old father also contracted a fever.
Yang Liguo was already suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease, so Summer rushed him to the Wuhan Central Hospital. There, doctors told her they suspected a coronavirus infection and treated him with intravenous antibiotics for three days.
His condition did not improve but he was told to go home.
On January 30, Yang’s fever subsided but he began experiencing breathing difficulties and extreme fatigue. Summer called an ambulance and took him to Wuhan’s Yaxing Hospital but he was turned away.
She then sought treatment at Wuhan Hankou Hospital, one of several hospitals designated to treat people infected with the coronavirus. But the facility refused to take him, saying he could not be admitted as he had not yet had a nucleic acid examination to determine if he indeed had the coronavirus.
Summer had to take her father home after another dose of intravenous antibiotics.
As Yang’s condition deteriorated over the following days, Summer and her brother took him to a third hospital, Xiehe, for laboratory tests to confirm if he had the coronavirus.
The test came back positive.
They immediately took him to Hankou, but the facility rejected him again, saying they did not have enough beds.
Desperate, Summer brought in a camp bed and put her father in it in front of Hankou’s emergency room. “I did that because at least he could get oxygen and IV fluids,” she said.
Over the following days, Summer and her brother took turns caring for their father at the hospital.
But his health only worsened, and an increasingly-distraught Summer began calling all the government and hospital hotlines and posting messages on social media, seeking better medical help.
Finally, on February 5, she received a call from the Beijing Epidemic Supervision division in Wuhan, telling her she could go get her father admitted at the hospital. A day later, Yang was finally taken to the Intensive Care Unit at the Hubei People’s Hospital.
Summer and her brother went home.
On February 7, soon after Yang was hospitalised, a doctor called to say he was in critical condition.
Summer and her brother called the hospital repeatedly over the next few days, seeking news of their father’s status, but the calls went unanswered.
At 6:24pm on February 11, a doctor telephoned Summer to say her father had passed away.
“I’m out of words to describe how angry I am,” she told Al Jazeera. “Who takes the responsibility for all this pain?”
Summer believes it was the government’s delay in disclosing information of the outbreak that was to blame for the chaos in Wuhan.
“The government made a huge mistake and now everyone is suffering because of their misconduct,” she said.
She did not feel any sense of relief when the heads of the Communist Party in Wuhan and Hubei province were fired on February 13. And she was even more furious when she commented on a post about the sacking of the officials on Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, only to find out her post was censored seconds later.
She does not trust government figures on the deaths either – China’s National Health Commission on Monday said nearly 1,800 people have died and more than 70,000 people have been infected.
“I was at the hospitals all the time. One night, within two and half hours, I saw four dead people being carried out. Do you believe only over one thousand have died? No way!” she said.
“They covered up with lies and lies and now the whole country is feeling unbearable pain,” she said, vowing to seek justice for her father’s death.
“More and more people will stand up like me and demand justice. Have they ever apologised to us? Has anyone said anything on our behalf? I’m paying tens of thousands of dollars a year on tax, only to feed all these officials for nothing.”
Yang’s body has now been cremated. But the mortuary failed to notify Summer or her family when the cremation happened and said they have no information on where his ashes are, despite many calls.
Summer’s mother is recovering slowly at home but she does not know her husband has died. Summer kept the news from her because she is worried it might make her condition worse.
“I want them to apologise to my family. I will protest,” Summer said. “Then I’ll leave. I don’t want to live in this country any more.”