Zhang Dan with Doudou Image Credit: AP

A nurse in Wuhan, China, who worked during the peak of the coronavirus crisis made several connections with patients she helped but one friendship was most precious to her – a stray dog she met and named Doudou (bean).

Zhang Dan was among the first to step forward to help fight COVID-19 in the city. The 36-year-old nurse worked round the clock to administer patients who needed assistance in basic things like breathing and eating.

Reportedly, her family was worried for her life but she insisted on volunteering. She purchased life insurance that would help her family if she succumbed to the disease.

As increasingly people got infected by the virus in Wuhan, her husband returned to his home province during the Lunar New Year holiday that was on January 25 and her mother shifted to their apartment in Changchun, in China's Jilin province, to take care of her plants and four dogs.

"I can’t save the world, but I can try my best with my tiny efforts to do what I can do to help," Dan was quoted as saying.

'Doudou' helped her cope

The stress of working as a frontliner was getting to Dan. It took the staff 40 minutes to wear the protective gear, which included four layers of protective gowns and gloves, three layers of shoe covers, two hats, two pairs of masks, goggles and a face shield. The medics used to wear adult diapers to avoid washroom breaks and the hectic task of removing and disposing of the multiple layers of the gear.

She provided daily life care to elderly patients. She sang to them to boost their morale and washed their feet and hair.

When she was not working, Dan would take walks to distract herself from the chaos. That's when a small street dog caught her attention. Dan offered the dog a piece of ham one day and they were inseparable ever since.

She named the dog Doudou (bean).

Feeding Doudou became a daily distraction. She even made the dog a vest out of material used for scrubs because of the freezing temperatures.

Pictures of Dan were shared online. Tweep @USRealityCheck posted an image of her in gear and wrote: "Street dog helps see Chinese nurse through virus traumas. Zhang Dan was among the first to respond when the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan needed help."

By mid-March, China had control over the COVID-19 crisis and teams such as Dan’s decided to pack up.

Doudou was going to need a permanent home. Dan posted video appeals on social media, and local pet volunteers offered to help.

As Dan’s departure date approached, she wanted to Doudou that they would be parting.

“It doesn’t matter if it is animals or people. You need to let them know what is going on,” she was quoted as saying.

Dan left on April 8, and Doudou was put up for adoption. However, even after some time passed, there were no suitable takers for the little street dog.

Dan decided to adopt Doudou. It was reported that Doudou arrived in Changchun earlier this month to join her four playmates, and the nurse who came to love her amidst the crisis.

- With inputs from the Associated Press (AP).