A selfless volunteer driver who transported sick patients during the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak has died from lung cancer after refusing medical care in Wuhan when the virus rapidly spread through the city.
Cao Zhicheng, who during the outbreak was known as Tang Di, travelled more than 1,200km to COVID-19’s original epicentre of Wuhan from his hometown Tangshan in February to help transport sick patients and medical supplies in his small bus, Hebei News Network reported.
In March, the 55-year-old discovered he had developed a tumour in his lungs.
He was offered medical treatment from multiple hospitals in Wuhan but the volunteer rejected the offer because of the pressure the medical system was under fighting the virus.
“I don't want to add a burden to Wuhan,” he said at the time.
He refused to give his real name at the time as he wanted to “give silently”, and returned to his hometown following his diagnosis.
Fellow volunteer Yuan Jintao told Hebei News Network Cao would often refuse any praise or remuneration for the work he did.
"What impressed me was that the team volunteers could be reimbursed for fuel expenses and had appropriate allowances and subsidies, but he just didn't want a penny,” he said.
“And he never said tired or complained about any tasks.”
He said Cao was optimistic about his diagnosis and other volunteers had planned on visiting him in Tangshan. However, it is believed Cao had downplayed the severity of his condition to not worry those around him.
The news of Cao’s death has rocked China, with more than 24 million users on Weibo commenting on his death and paying tribute.
“A hero of our time,” one person wrote.
“A great man for our country and people,” another said.
His family told Chinese media they are feeling “very sad” and are preparing for his funeral.
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