Tears and laughter filled the auditorium of the Executive Yuan yesterday as Premier Yu Shyi-kun held a party to express the government's appreciation for the contributions of two men who headed up the nation's anti-SARS efforts, Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) and Huang Fu-yuan (黃富源).
Lee's wife, Liao Ya-hui (
"We're only two typical Taiwanese people.
"We just did what we're supposed to do," she said.
Both born and raised in Tainan County, Liao said that she encouraged Lee to accept the job as the chief command officer of the Cabinet's ad hoc anti-SARS committee because in her hometown, everybody looks out for each other.
"I didn't want to see the nation and the people suffer," she said.
"I believed he was capable of doing the job and would do it well," she said.
Liao said that when they returned from the US so Lee could begin the job on May 5, she went back to their home in Hualien alone.
"If I wanted to know what he was doing, I just turned on the TV and there he was," she said, drawing a round of laughter from the audience.
When their only daughter had her second baby on May 15, Liao said that Lee was so preoccupied with his work that he asked only two questions before hanging up on her.
"The news didn't strike him until three days later when he asked me whether our daughter had the baby," Liao said.
Visibly surprised by the scale of the party, Lee said that he did not expect to attend the party with so many people around.
"I thought it was a small gathering with tea and cakes," he said.
He also declined to take the credit of the government's anti-SARS efforts.
"It's team work that makes the campaign successful," Lee said.
"I'm just the one who tied the strings together," he said.
In addition to thanking Yu and Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) -- who served on the SARS research team -- Lee said that he owed his personal appreciation to his wife who he called his "personal chief commander." Lee then presented his wife with a bouquet that had been given to him.
Huang, adviser to the anti-SARS committee and former Department of Health deputy director-general, said that Lee's joining the committee helped ease the burden and pressure of his work.
"I joined the committee 10 days before he did and I breathed a sigh of relief after he came aboard," Huang said.
In addition to thanking Lee, Huang thanked his employer, the Mackay Memorial Hospital, for allowing him to take a one-month leave to help in the anti-SARS campaign.
Huang also revealed that he prescribed sleeping pills and sedatives to both Lee and himself to better cope with the pressure from work.
"One day, he told me that he had come down with a fever. Afraid that he might be infected with SARS, I managed to find three places for him to stay in isolation within three hours.
"Fortunately, the fever went away the next day," Huang said.