Covid-19: How UAE's frontliners helped fight the pandemic

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File photo

Dubai - Doctors and nurses have their own tale to tell after witnessing first-hand, and being amid a dangerous virus


James Jose

Published: Fri 3 Sep 2021, 2:37 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Sep 2021, 2:42 PM

As we were gripped with trepidation, these were the heroes who fronted up and went to battle a pandemic of enormous proportions. And along the way, they put themselves in harm’s way so that residents could be safe.

These doctors and nurses have their own tale to tell after witnessing first-hand, and being amid a dangerous virus.

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Dr Vikas Bhagat, specialist, critical care medicine at Aster Hospital, was one among thousands of doctors on the frontline.

“Working as an intensivist meant encountering patients who were critically ill. I still clearly remember putting my first critically ill patient on assisted ventilation,” Dr Vikas told Khaleej Times.

“The initial days were the toughest. The medical fraternity was seen battling something which none of us knew anything about. The nature of the disease, how it impacts the human body, the mode of transmission — all these were questions that were roaming around in everybody’s head. I was petrified, I must admit,” he explains.

“Lives were being lost at the drop of a hat, families were not being allowed to visit their loved ones even in their dying moments and, over time, it took a psychological toll and consumed us all with a sense of helplessness.”

Staying in a hotel, away from family

Adds Dr Vikas: “It was then that I made a conscious decision to stay away from my family (elderly mum, wife and two little daughters) as I was in constant touch with Covid positive patients. I stayed in a hotel room for four months without seeing my family, even for a single day. Time had lost its value. We were working 14-16 hours a day regularly, and it seemed as though the cycle was never-ending.

“Fast forward 18 months to the present, the introduction of vaccinations and new treatment options have cushioned the blow to a considerable extent,” he added.

The Naif operation

Saed Al Salaymeh, nursing director at Burjeel Hospital, narrated about being in Dubai's Naif area, one of the worst affected areas.

“When Naif was closed down, we allocated 18 members of our team to serve in the affected area for screening and taking care of patients. As healthcare providers, we have committed to serving patients. This sense of duty helped us to do our jobs even when we were worried about carrying the infection home to our families,” said Al Salaymeh, who was infected by the virus along with his family. They quarantined and managed to battle the virus.

Together in the fight

Dr. Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist pulmonologist/respiratory medicine at Medeor Hospital, said: “I saw my first Covid case in March 2020 and have treated over 1,000 patients since then. Being a frontline worker during this public health emergency meant making many sacrifices, like staying away from my family. Today, I am happy that such sacrifices by frontliners have played a role in curbing this illness.

“The authorities not only laid out a clear protocol in the early days of the pandemic, but they also made contingency plans for every scenario. A swift and systematic vaccination campaign for all the residents of the country made a remarkable difference. Another factor that helped limit the pandemic is the socially responsible population here that has adhered to protocols from the beginning. The way everyone came together in the fight against the pandemic has helped us emerge successfully from this crisis,” he added.

Emotional support

Celin Jacob, assistant chief nursing officer at Aster Hospital, was one of the nurse managers managing isolation hotels and Covid hospitals.

“No nurse manager practising today has experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic. None of us has managed this degree of chaos, complexity and uncertainty before, so in a sense, we are all still trying to find our way. Our roles in treating patients involved triaging them and detecting suspected cases with infections, providing essential treatment in an emergency and dealing with suspected patients with precaution, and helping in decontamination and coordination with other healthcare providers. We were also striving to meet the emotional needs of individuals who were affected with Covid 19,” said Celin.

She added: “I was worried about taking the virus home or passing it to my kid, older or vulnerable relatives. I was socially cut off from family, church activities and friends. But as a nurse, I am extremely proud to be working in the UAE where the government is proactive in its measures against Covid-19.”

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