K.T. Kamarunissa fought Nipah and now takes on COVID-19
K.T. Kamarunissa fought Nipah and now takes on COVID-19 Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: It was a dream come true moment for K.T. Kamarunissa, a nurse who had treated a Nipah patient in the Indian state of Kerala, when she landed in the UAE on Wednesday morning to combat coronavirus here.

The 25-year-old, who is part of the second batch of Indian medics on a COVID-19 mission, said she had tried to get a chance to serve COVID-19 patients back home, but failed.

K.T. Kamarunissa

“I badly wanted to serve COVID-19 patients,” said the frontline warrior from Kerala’s Kozhikode district who cherishes the chance she got to serve patients during the current healthcare emergency. The experience of treating a Nipah-infected patient when there was an outbreak of the deadly disease in her district in 2018 was a source of inspiration for Kamarunnisa to embark on another challenging mission like this.

“I had contacted the district authorities in Kozhikode to check whether there was a possibility to volunteer in any of the COVID-19 facilities in the district. But I didn’t get a chance. It was then I came to know about this recruitment held by VPS Healthcare. I had no second thoughts,” she said, while narrating how she became part of the 75 nurses recruited by the UAE-based group for the special mission.

Seeing her enthusiasm and confidence, her family and husband stood by her, she said.

“All were supportive. Or they didn’t show the tension on their face.”

Her only concern was the separation from her child. “It was tough. I will miss my child a lot. But ever since I got selected to be a part of this medical mission, I was mentally prepared. I also told my child about this. In this hour of need, I believe serving those suffering is my duty and I am up for it. I will be meeting my child after winning this battle,” said Kamarunissa.

Similarly, leaving behind his four-month-old child was a heart-breaking moment for Vinod Sebastian, one of the senior male nurses in the team.

Vinod Sebastian

“How can we hold back when a virus is raging around the world? It is our duty to serve the ailing and defend the spread of the virus,” asks the 40-year-old father of two children.

With over 11 years of experience, Vinod has been a member of a volunteer support group when Kerala was hit by a devastating flood in 2018.

In his maiden journey to the UAE, he is fully prepared to be on the frontline of this battle against the deadly virus and to treat infected patients.

“Being from Kerala, we have the experience of dealing with similar crises. We are completely aware of the medical guidelines to be followed and are well-used to its compliance as we have been following this for over two months in the hospital now,” he said.

Kerala had braced itself for the COVID-19 outbreak much earlier when the first case from Wuhan in China landed in January.

“We are confident and motivated. We are sure of winning this battle against COVID-19. We have the support of our family and the prayers of the whole world are with us. It is our time to act and we shall do it to our fullest abilities,” Vinod added.

Persuading parents

V.R. Rakhi

V. R. Rakhi, another nurse in the group, said her parents were bit tense and afraid to send her to the UAE for this medical mission. “But I persuaded them. This is our duty. I have been working as a nurse in the medical ICU for over six years now. All of us are well aware that this is the time we must step forward to help the world in this crisis. I am very excited and proud to be a part of this mission.”

“I will miss my daughter. She is just six. But I have told her that ‘amma’ (mother) is going to take care of patients. She has agreed. She has told me that she will study well and become a smart girl and learn everything by the time I get back home,” she added.

The support and encouragement of family have been the driving force for Pinkymol Mathew, a 26-year-old nurse from Kottayam. She has been working in the critical care department for about three years in a private hospital in Kerala.

Pinkymol Mathew

“When I heard about this opportunity, I wanted to try. I discussed this with my family and all were very supportive. They are very proud of me. Now, I should do my work well to keep my parents proud,” she said.

The 105-member medical team, including the 75 new recruits and health professionals who were on leave back home in India, landed at Abu Dhabi Airport early on Wednesday morning.

The team will now be divided into groups and will undergo training at various COVID-19 hospitals under VPS Healthcare.

They will be on the frontline of the UAE’s battle against COVID-19 after their initial training for a few days, the group said.

Historic bus journey

The journey of the Indian medical team from Kerala to the UAE was by itself a historic experience for all nurses.

As lockdown measures are in place in Kerala due to COVID-19, assembling the team at Kochi for their Abu Dhabi flight was a humungous task, particularly as the members of the team were from almost all districts of Kerala, the group said.

But thanks to the Kerala government, things fell in place smoothly, it said.

“The office of the Chief Minister of Kerala intervened and arranged four Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses for the purpose.”

The route map of the bus and time of arrival at each pick-up point was informed in advance. Each nurse went to the nearest pick-up point on their own.

The first bus started from the southernmost district of Thiruvananthapuram at 10:30 am on Saturday and picked up people from Kollam to reach Kochi in the evening.

Similarly, there were buses from Pathanamthitta and Kottayam, from central Kerala and also from the northern district of Kannur. The members followed social distancing norms while travelling.

At Kochi, the nurses underwent a preliminary medical check-up at VPS Lakeshore hospital.

COVID-test was held for all on Sunday morning with the aid of the state health department.

“Each of them was allotted a separate room in a hotel near the hospital and was asked to strictly follow health guidelines. The results came out negative for all by Monday evening. The negative COVID-19 report was submitted to the authorities concerned who gave the final green signal for the take-off,” the group said.

The team travelled to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday early morning on a specially chartered Etihad flight.