David Ginsberg decided he would try to escape.

The Philadelphia-area lawyer had been living and practicing international law for years in Shenzhen, a city in southeastern China that connects Hong Kong to China’s mainland.

But after the novel coronavirus came to the public attention, the 57-year-old didn’t see a way out. It hadn’t reached that global scale yet, but Ginsberg already saw it heading that way.

His efforts to escape, recounted in Facebook posts and in an interview with The Inquirer, illustrate the global worries over the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

His Facebook friends had been alarmed by his previous posts, describing the halted and fearful life in the usually bustling city. He described empty city buses driving by and closed stores. He told them how his temperature was checked every time he entered a building, including his apartment, and how that happened at least nine times one day. He posted a photo of the buttons in the elevators covered in plastic wrap.

Those friends told him to get out and stay safe.

“I’d better get my act together and get to Cambodia,” he replied to one.

The next day he found a way.

“I can barely breathe as I type this, and it is not from the virus. I just made desperate plane reservations out of here,” he wrote on Feb. 5.

He booked a flight to Phnom Penh, the capital. He wasn’t sure if Cambodia would accept travelers from China, but gambled he’d be allowed in. “I have no choice but to leave everything I know, my home, my friends, my relationships, my apartment and belongings, my job, and evacuate (if possible).”

Even though this was his escape from a virus killing thousands in China, he was about to end up in a Cambodian hospital and almost die from something else.

Dispatch from China Day 9 @ Corona Virus -Situation Dire The noose finally slipped totally over my head today, and at...

Posted by David M Ginsberg on Wednesday, February 5, 2020

At first, he felt relieved. He saw how the situation in China had deteriorated, and kept running into people who had fled.

But soon, he would become critically ill. That same week he was found unconscious in his hotel room.

He woke up in the intensive care unit of a Cambodian hospital, with his wrists tied to the bed. He had rapidly lost blood from severe abdominal bleeding.

He didn’t know why he was sick. No one explained to him what happened. He asked for someone to call the U.S. Embassy, but no one agreed. Eventually, he was untied, but, he said, the hospital continued to treat him like a “dog.”

His son, Etan, a 21-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania, flew to Cambodia, arriving last week.

Ginsberg almost died of blood loss, and it’s still not entirely clear why.

The hospital, Ginsberg said, was refusing to give him more blood. To get any blood, he said, the hospital would make a friend or relative donate it. He said he didn’t get painkillers.

“If I could, I would go back to China and take the virus over this hell,” he wrote to his Facebook friends on Feb. 25.

Two days later, he explained: “I was at death's door and I kind of wanted the agony to stop even if I just died.”

His son found a hospital run by Japanese doctors, where his father was transferred in hopes of better care.

Ginsberg learned a tear from profuse vomiting caused the first bleeding. Doctors are still not sure what caused the bleeding the second time. But the Japanese hospital staff was taking care of him.

“I am in a MUCH BETTER facility and the initial news looks promising. I hope they can treat some problems they saw with medication. There is currently no active bleeding,” he updated his Facebook friends Saturday. “I am so alone and far away but you all spanned the distance and surrounded me with love and helped save my life.”

Ginsberg was released from the hospital this week, his son still with him and helping him recover.

He’s planning to go back to China eventually. “The only issue,” he said, “is the timing with respect to the virus."

He will be living in Cambodia and checking in with his doctor from the hospital once a week until April. He hopes this gives China time to “get the virus under control.”

He is finally recovering. He doesn’t want to get sick again.

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