Abu Dhabi: For nearly four decades, Aurora Aguinaldo has served the community in Al Ain.
The 64-year-old Filipino nurse, who has memories of tending to the young family members in the royal household, is today still helping out in the UAE’s effort to combat the coronavirus.
“I take it as a way of giving back to this community that has long treated me as one of its own. I put in my service every day, and I pray for God’s help to beat this virus,” Aguinaldo told Gulf News.
Memories of a bygone time
She is now helping with the discharge and transfer of COVID-19 patients, but Aguionaldo – armed with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Phillippine Christian University — first joined the Al Ain Hospital in 1981 as a paediatric staff nurse.
“I arrived with a batch of 17 nurses, all women,” Aguinaldo remembered.
“At the time, residents relied a lot on alternative medicine, including herbal concoctions and cupping. There was also a lot of respect given to seniors and elderly members of the community. So the head of a medical department was often the oldest, most experienced member of the staff,” she said.
Meeting Sheikh Zayed
In 1986, while in charge of a royal baby, Aguinaldo was honoured to often be in the presence of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
“He was carrying a toy snake and when he left it around, I thought it was a real one. I snatched the baby away to ensure she was safe. His Highness noticed this and laughed loudly, then assured me that it was a toy and that there was no danger,” she recalled.
“He was jovial and smiling, and such a humble, compassionate person,” Aguinaldo added.
The long-serving nurse says she had never thought she would live to witness a pandemic.
“To be honest, I was worried when I saw diabetes becoming rampant here. But I always thought that would be the worst of it. Now, this coronavirus has made us all helpless,” she said.
Work with COVID-19 patients
When the virus first broke out, Aguinaldo worked directly with COVID-19 patients for a month.
“I had to be in full protective gear at the hospital. It was hot and uncomfortable, and difficult to see patients in pain who could only communicate with us through sign language. But we tried to smile as much as we could, and empower one another to serve the sick,” she said.
The Filipina also believes strongly in the power of prayer to beat the pandemic.
“I always say that I had to cover myself in PPE and in prayer to protect myself,” she said.
When it is time to go home for the day, Aguinaldo also takes precautions to protect her family, even though the steps take time. At the end of her shift, she showers at the hospital. Then, after getting home, she leaves her shoes at the door, puts her clothes in the wash and showers again.
“Along with my husband and daughter, I have the privilege of having my son and his family living with me, including his two daughters aged three and one. They are all so proud of me of the work I do, and I want to make sure that they are all protected as I help ease this burden in the land we love,” she said.
Even after 39 years of service, the nurse says she plans to continue working for as long as she is allowed.
“I want to help release the burden of this pandemic, and see life return to normal,” she said.