International Women's Day 2021: Arab women on Covid frontline
Dubai Ambulance Service paramedic Hamda Al Hammadi is recognised by the Frontline Heroes Office for long hours in the field.
Meet UAE’s frontline ‘sheroes’ who are going exceptional lengths to safeguard people’s wellbeing during the pandemic. They portrayed immense grit and resilience in the face of the Covid pandemic and went above and beyond duty, leaving behind personal fears, commitments, and family for the sake of humanity.
First Emirati in airwing ambulance
First on the scene at suspected coronavirus cases, Dubai Ambulance Service paramedic Hamda Al Hammadi is recognised by the Frontline Heroes Office for long hours in the field and sacrificing the safety of those she cares about most.
This Emirati on the frontlines is no stranger to the demanding job on the frontline of the UAE’s emergency response. The 31-year-old is an advanced paramedic and the first Emirati woman to work for Dubai’s Airwing Ambulance Unit — a job that exposes her to life or death medical emergencies.
When the pandemic struck, Hamda found herself confronted by a new risk as a healthcare professional — becoming exposed to the disease and endangering family members at home. For several weeks, Hamda and her family battled against the effects of the coronavirus before making full recovery. “The challenging part of our job as healthcare workers on frontlines is that we desperately wanted to help others, but do not want to harm our families at the same time,” she said.
For Hamda, it was a childhood dream and her father’s wish to join the medical field and serve people. After graduating from Higher Colleges of Technology – Dubai Women’s College, she answered a Dubai Ambulance Services advert for Emirati paramedics.
While many thought she would opt for an administrative role upon gaining her qualifications, Hamda defied expectation and worked as an advanced paramedic in the field, where she has served for the past 13 years. She became an inspiration to Emirati women throughout the country when she qualified to work in the air ambulance service.
Reflecting on her continuing role at the forefront of the UAE’s coronavirus response, Hamda said she feels thankful for having a job that enables her to directly help her country. “Before, people wouldn’t pay much attention to paramedics and other medical staff, but now we’re receiving so much praise and recognition for what we do,” she said. “We know that our jobs come with an element of risk, but it means a lot to feel such positive vibes. I feel blessed to live in a country where we serve everyone, regardless of who they are. We will get through this together.”
Away from home for a year
One of the youngest to join the UAE’s fight against Covid was Egyptian doctor Rofida Moustafa Al Behiry. She was only 23, fresh out of Dubai Medical College, when she heard the country required healthcare professionals to volunteer in the Covid fight. Without thinking twice, Rofida took the plunge and started her career with volunteering at the Al Warsan Isolation facility (Hind Humanitarian City) that was set up to serve Covid patients. It has been a year and Rofida hasn’t stopped volunteering – she volunteered at a vaccination centre before joining a Covid field hospital in Dubai, where she is currently volunteering.
“I joined Hind Humanitarian City in March 2020 to serve Covid patients, where we worked day and night as we didn’t have much staff at the time so at times I even volunteered to be on duty for 48 hours without sleep. For me this was a chance to serve my country and my people so I did it and will continue to do it with great ride and enthusiasm,” the young Covid warrior said.
“ I have elderly parents who stay in Abu Dhabi but since I began volunteering for Covd patients and am constantly exposed to them, I have been living away from my family for a year now. I stay in staff accommodations in Dubai and visit my parents on some weekends, that too after getting my Covid test done so I do not pass on any infection to them,” she said, adding that her other siblings are also working on different Covid frontlines such as field hospitals also took part in the Covid vaccine trials.
The now 24 year old doctor added: “Love for my country UAE, support of our Rulers and not to forget support of my seniors at the Al Warsan isolation facility, where they guided me how to go about things since I was fairly new to the field. My senior Mohamad Matar, who was managing all the operations at the facility always made us feel like part of a family and encouraged us to give our best, which I did. And I want to pass the baton to other young women and tell them you must come forward to help your country in need.”
Handling cancer and covid with a smile
Dr Soha Abdelbaky, medical oncology consultant at Zulekha Hospital Dubai, has been handling cancer patient for the last 17 years, with Covid pandemic things became harder. “We have to be more alert now as cancer patients are more susceptible to Covid than people without cancer as they are in an immunosuppressive state because of the anticancer treatment they have to take. We as oncologists now have to be more attentive to detect Covid infection early, as any type of advanced cancer is at much higher risk for unfavorable outcomes,” the Egyptian doctor said.
For her dedication, emotional support and passion to serve, Dr Soha was honoured by Dabur International as part of its campaign to recognise women who heped combat the ongoing pandemic. Dr Soha with several other medical staff at Zulekha Hospital in Dubai were facilitated and were presented with hampers containing personal care products on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
Known for always sporting a smile on her face, Dr Soha said: “The pandemic has been a very tragic experience for most of the people around the world and even more for patients with pre-existing diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Treating cancer patients every day especially during these trying times, required immense patience from our end as a doctor, with constant re-assurance of safety while they were undergoing treatments at the hospital. While I shoulder my responsibilities as a mother of two little girls, I am very content that I have the opportunity to support these patients and give them the emotional strength alongside the treatments in such hard times to stay resilient with hope. Kudos to the brave survivors who have seen themselves through this pandemic.”
Giving out her message to women across the globe, Dr Soha emphasized the importance of health and self-care as she said: “Women need to be in the pink of health as they shoulder a number of responsibilities of a family. Remember to take care of yourself also because if you fall sick, there are a number of people around you in your family who are dependent on you for physical and emotional support. Therefore, women must not ignore their health issues and must pay attention to themselves before caring for others. Stay calm and stay strong, these tough times will pass.”
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