“Amidst the dark, there is positivity in the impact we leave in the lives of people we come across.”
Self-isolated in a room at home. Food and water prepared in disposables and left in front of the room door. Face masks are used inside and outside the house. No proper conversations or contact with family members. No quarantine family quality time like the rest of the world. That is just a glimpse of the precautions Ophthalmology resident at El Kasr El Aini hospital Doctor Nevine Lotfy, like every doctor serving under COVID19, goes through at home.
That is aside from the struggles and heart-breaking moments they endure every day at work. They did not choose or prepare for this tough battle, but they were courageously on the frontlines fighting both the novel and the old viruses.
“It was not a choice. All doctors, including myself, swore an oath before we were licensed to practice. We have always been exposed to high-risk contagious infection, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and open Tuberculosis. Simply, this is our duty, there is no other choice but to face the risks,” said Nevine.
Like the rest of health institutions around the world, El Kasr El Aini took its time before getting its staff ready to face the virus. “It took enormous efforts and time, to address all issues. Whenever one issue was solved, we found ourselves facing other obstacles,” Dr. Nevine recalled.
Yet, according to Dr. Nevine, the institution became more equipped by time, through cooperation amongst the staff members. Prepared with personal protective measures, the team still conducts urgent surgeries in all specializations for patients regardless of whether they contracted the COVID19 virus or not. “We still carry the legacy of ‘El Kasr Al Aini doors remain wide open to everyone no matter what,’” she added.
With regards to internal precautions, the doctors’ temperature is measured every day before they sign-in to work, social distancing is applied at all times, more sanitizers were installed, face-masks and shields are worn at all times, and the doctors are divided into teams, to have a backup team in case one got infected and had to be isolated.
“We didn’t totally adapt. I believe we are just putting everything on hold, not trying to think much, focusing on our current duties, but we cannot wait to go back to normal,” Dr. Nevine expressed.
Wearing the face shield was yet another challenge facing doctors according to Dr. Nevine, since it failed to help them show empathy to their patients. Communication became harder, especially with children who scare away from masks.
She also pointed to how raising awareness and making people stick to the precautions was challenging.
While COVID19 stole the spotlight, Dr. Nevine emphasised the vitality of attending to other serious diseases that need follow-ups. “Many of those patients are losing their chances to get the proper management in the middle of the Corona hassle. They deserve to be taken care of,” she stressed. Besides, many of those patients do not seek medical advice immediately for the fear of going to a hospital in such times, or not knowing they can go out during curfew if it is an emergency, making the issue worse.
Despite all those hardships, insomnia, and disturbed sleeping patterns from stress and heavy responsibilities were Nevine’s hardest battle.
“I do believe that staying sane during this phase is the hardest challenge for everyone, not just the doctors,” she added.
Given that doctors like Nevine go to work every day with the possibility of operating on COVI19 carriers or patients, Dr. Nevine’s first encounter with a suspected patient was one of her unforgettable experiences.
“I don’t know why, but before heading to work that day, I prepared a mini bag with some essentials for the first time and said proper goodbyes to my mom and sister, telling them I have a feeling I will have to operate on a COVID19 patient tonight,” she narrated.
On that day, she operated on an eight-year-old boy with Corona symptoms. A team with different doctors from various specializations was instantly formed to attend to the matter.
“I always wondered how I would react when I encounter this, but I wasn’t scared at all. I was prepared psychologically and I was all in for it. It was the most compassionate and humane team work I have experienced in my life.” She explained.
Dr. Nevine hopes the current pandemic highlights the importance of improving the healthcare system in Egypt to help doctors excel more. “We do not need validation from anyone. We have always worked efficiently without the need to be praised,” she added.
To all her fellow doctors, Dr. Nevine shared what motivates her to move forward.
“Amidst the dark, there is positivity in the impact we leave in the lives of people we come across. They need us the most. Please don’t forget to give emotional support to covid19 patients as well.” She concluded.