He collapsed with seizures brought on by late-stage tuberculosis and spent three months in George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., where the nurses delivered his treatment with such care he decided to join their ranks.
After learning English, he enrolled in an accelerated nursing program at Chamberlain University in Downers Grove, Illinois, condensing four years of study into 30 months. He graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree.
“It was tough,” Conners told VOA Indonesia of his intense program. Now an ICU nurse in the hospital where he returned to health, he treats African Americans,?Hispanics,?Asians, Middle Easterners, Caucasians, “everyone the same. They are my patients.”
His first COVID-19 patients were in their?70s and 80s, but now they are younger people, in their 20s and 30s.
“It's really sad. It's really depressing,” Conners said. “And when I go out from work, when I (leave) work, I see people in the street outside … not wearing masks or they're just not doing social distancing. … it (breaks) my heart.”
If only those on the street could “see inside of this hospital, people … dying,” said Conners, who would like to return to Indonesia to work with a local clinic, build?an outpatient clinic?and “try to help my people.”
Nursing during the pandemic has taught Conners the value of self-care, which includes taking care “of my mind, my mental? well-being,” said Conners, who estimates he has witnessed 100 patients die from COVID-19.
Sometimes “I feel like COVID just beat me. … Or I feel like I just lost in a battle with COVID.”
Wengang Zhang, 67, was born in China’s Sichuan province, and arrived in the U.S. in 1988 with a medical degree he’d earned from what is now the Chongqing University of Medical Sciences.