Abu Dhabi: Like thousands of frontline professionals in the UAE, Amal Al Busaeedi dedicated herself to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, the Emirati also believes she infected her mother during a visit home during the early months of the outbreak.
“The virus came so quickly that no one knew what to expect. But there was no question of what I would do. This was my moment to step up and give back to the nation. My military training, which I completed in 2019, prepared me for a crisis,” said Al Busaeedi, head of technical support at the Emirates Red Crescent.
Far from loved ones
Helping settle and reassure hundreds of people every day at the Ghantoot quarantine facility, Al Busaeedi however found it hard to stay away from her loved ones, and her desire to serve her nation may just have put her loved ones at risk. “The crisis really hit [for me] when I visited home for just a day to see my mother after three months away. Within a day she was sick with a dry cough, fever and other signs of COVID-19. Despite the fact that I had tested negative before seeing her, I’m 90 per cent certain I infected her,” Al Busaeedi remembered.
“I was faced with the reality that my mother had most probably become sick as a result of my work. I cried inconsolably that night as I dealt with the sense of guilt. I had to take care of my mother, but felt torn between this responsibility and my desire to serve the nation,” she said.
Tending to her mother
Al Busaeedi’s mother spent time in quarantine, which, as luck would have it, involved her recovering at the Ghantoot facility. “I was able to keep an eye on her and make sure she was in good spirits. After a month, she recovered, and the doctors allowed her to go home so long as she maintained social distancing,” Al Busaeedi said.
She is among thousands of professionals and volunteers who have been recognised by the Frontline Heroes Office for going beyond the call of duty to protect people’s health and well-being during the pandemic.
Till the end
Al Busaeedi is tasked with ensuring that people quarantined at the Ghantoot facility have access to items, including medication, and are sufficiently comfortable to rest and recover, all the while maintaining social distancing. She describes the role as requiring “empathy, understanding and hope”.
“I don’t intend to leave until this crisis is finally over,” she said.
Describing the early days of the pandemic, she spoke of the fear and uncertainty. “People arrived at the quarantine centre after landing at the airport looking terrified and not knowing what to do. They needed somebody to show them how to get through this. Hospitals sent us non-critical patients. We worked to calm them down because most came convinced that they were going to die. Those from other emirates often didn’t have extra clothes or private amenities with them. They needed everything and we ensured they were comfortable,” she remembered.
“That initial period was very difficult for me. In those days, we would see 200 people or more in each hotel at a time, excluding their children. We were working nearly 24 hours a day and were lucky to sleep for even two hours. Whenever my phone rang, I had to be ready to get back to work,” Al Busaeedi said.
Following her mother’s bout with COVID-19, Al Busaeedi’s two sisters also contracted the virus. They however recovered quickly, and were able to quarantine at home.
Her experience has left the frontline professional emboldened, and she went on to participate in the COVID-19 vaccine trials. “The most important thing we have learnt is that this is our moment to sacrifice for our nation. This is our time to stand together as one, for a country that has bestowed so much upon us. We will look back at this historic moment with great pride,” she said.