Dubai: Jasmine Mohammad Sharaf is the only nurse from the UAE who was shortlisted in the top 10 nominees for the recently concluded International Aster Guardian Global Awards for Frontline Warriors.
Sharaf received a commendation and cash prize of $5,000 (around Dh18,300) for her nomination on International Nursing Day on May 12 in Dubai.
Beyond the call of duty
Sharaf, 42, is the mother of two children – son Akmal, 20, who is currently studying to be a doctor and daughter Eshayel, 8, a school student. The nurse hails from Adoor in Pathanmittha district of Kerala, a state in southern India. She works as a clinical nurse with the Al Khawaneej Medical Centre of Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and has been an employee of DHA since 2003.
Sharaf demonstrated exemplary dedication to the community when she went beyond the call of duty during the COVID-19 pandemic by not only attending to thousands of patients in the clinic and their homes, but also cooking for them and helping them by extending modest financial aid and moral support.
So far, she has helped over 40,000 patients in more than two years, some of whom have been overwhelmed by her compassion and nominated her for the Aster Guardian Award.
Service to COVID-19 patients
A dedicated nurse with a very cheerful disposition, Sharaf did not let her own diabetes and asthma condition deter her during the pandemic. She also suffered from COVID-19 twice. She told Gulf News: “When the pandemic began, our clinic first turned into a PCR testing centre. Later, we began receiving COVID-19 positive patients, and dispatching the serious ones to hospitals for admission. Our centre gave us the choice to take a transfer to another DHA centre in case we were apprehensive.
“Although I had diabetes and asthma, I decided to stay back and help. In those days, very little was known about this virus and I thought I needed to reassure patients. There was so much fear and uncertainty among patients and they needed help and guidance.”
Sharaf began putting in eight to 12 hours of duty at the centre to cope with the rush.
Offering free car rides
However, that was not all. Sharaf realised that there were many blue-collar workers and tourists on visit visas with suspected COVID-19, stranded in their homes or accommodation facilities. Some were in home isolation, others too afraid to come to the centre for help. So once her duty got over, Sharaf would go their housing facilities to attend to them.
“In those days COVID taxis were provided to confirmed patients only. Those who wished to get their PCR test had to spend close to Dh100 one-way to reach the centre for tests. Therefore, after my duty got over, I would drive down to the camps, speak to those requiring tests, drive them in my car and drop them back home.
“There were people trying to stay at home, despite dangerously low levels of oxygen saturation. I helped them with oxymeters, taught them how to monitor their saturation and compelled them to be admitted to hospitals. In case of those in home isolation, a group of my friends with whom I formed an informal volunteer group would provide them medicines, food and some financial help too.”
Distributing food packets
She added: “Those in home isolation required help with meals. They were afraid and required help. My husband, Mohammad Sharaf, who was supporting me, would assist me in distributing meal packets. In the beginning, we would get the packed meals and distribute to the workers and other patients on visit visa.
“Later, when the expenses got high as more patients required help. My husband would go to the wholesale market in Ajman buy bulk rice and purchase chicken, cook and deliver meals to the sic.”
Sharaf continued: “After my duty hours I would spend all my waking hours trying to help these people, sometimes catching only two to three hours of sleep.”
In the last two years, there were times when she could catch only two hours of sleep at home and could not meet her son and daughter because of fear of exposure.
“My daughter was looked after by my husband while my 20 year old son was away at college.”
Testing positive twice
With the high level of exposure to COVID-19 cases, Sharaf contracted COVID in mid 2020 the first time. She recalled: “The first time I tested positive, I fell very sick. Vaccinations had not started then, on account of my diabetes and asthma. I had pneumonia and my levels of oxygen saturation too fell. I was hospitalised for a month. Once I got better and reported to work. I was back to community service. I continued my volunteer work with like-minded friends.”
Sharaf contracted COVID-19 again in 2021. After recovering and her vaccinations, as she continued to work with the patients.
Sharaf is “very happy” she could be of help in the time of pandemic to as many people as she could manage.
“My phone has about 48,000 numbers of people who called me from as far as Kuwait and Bahrain too for help. I am happy with the support of my husband and my friends I could help so many people.”
Humbled by nomination
The Aster Guardian Award nomination came as a very pleasant surprise to her.
“Many of my patients sent in my name and when I got the intimation I was so overwhelmed. My centre is so proud of me. My husband and I have decided that the cash prize, which is equivalent of Dh18,367 will be utilised to extend help to the needy. There are many sick and underprivileged individuals, many of whom I came in touch with in the last two years. There is a father-of-two, who is waiting for a kidney transplant and others. I will try to spend this amount in helping such people,” she added.
“As a nurse, serving the community is my calling and I will not stop. I thank the Almighty for providing me this financial award to continue my work.”