Dr. Ayesha Sultana wears up to 7 layers of PPE during a 12-hour shift at the screening clinic.
PHOTO BY SUPPLIED
DUBAI – She never expected to go straight to the Covid-19 frontlines barely a month after graduating as a doctor in the UAE, but Dr. Ayesha Sultana says it’s all part of the “call of duty” she just can’t refuse.
“We do 12-hour shifts with 7 layers of PPE. We are managing that because we know that at a time like this only we can provide reassurance to people. As doctors, our primary focus is to serve people during times of distress, and right now we are seeing a vulnerable time,” Dr. Sultana told Expatmedia.net in an exclusive interview.
The young doctor is behind the viral April 28 tweet where she recounts her moving encounter with a Dubai Police officer who stopped her on the road as she was driving home from work at past midnight. Instead of interrogating her, the police officer gave her a warm salute after learning she is a doctor.
I’m driving back home at 1am during curfew hours, got stopped by @DubaiPoliceHQ
I told him I’m a doctor returning from duty, had all my papers to present them
But the refused to check anything & gave me a Salute
As a 🇦🇪 resident, this is the biggest day of my life THANKYOU 😭❤
— Ayesha Sultana (@AyeshaSultana95) April 27, 2020
Speaking to Expatmedia.net, Dr. Sultana said the newfound respect that people are showing healthcare professionals is what keeps her going during these difficult times.
“People all across the globe are showing us the respect and support which is completely new for us to see at a time like this. It’s helping us get through the day. I see patients who say ‘thank you’ to me at the centre for what I’m doing. I see people show gratitude to the doctors treating them,” Dr. Sultana said.
After her viral encounter with the police officer, the Dubai Police sent her a box of protective shields that she can wear during work at the Al Ahli Covid-19 screening centre. The chief of Happiness and Positivity Council, Awatif Al Suwaidi, also called her and her parents to extend his best wishes, she said.
Born and raised in the UAE, the 24-year-old doctor had just graduated from the Dubai Medical College in February when the Dubai Health Authority asked her to volunteer at a screening centre in the emirates.
“My family was very worried when I took up the challenge to volunteer on the frontline for Covid-19 but I explained to them that it’s my call of duty. I cannot say no. I have to serve this country and its people since they have given us the privilege of calling this place home,” Dr. Sultana said.
The young doctor lives in Sharjah with her brother, mother and father who has spent the last 30 years in the UAE as a mechanical engineer.
“I never expected my first experience as a junior doctor to be battling a pandemic! When I was called by Dubai Health Authority to volunteer because there’s a shortage of doctors, I said yes without thinking twice,” Dr. Sultana told Expatmedia.net.
She admits there is a “feeling of uncertainty” working against a contagious virus, but that she is taking precautions “to the best of my capabilities”.
“I feel worried coming back to my family at home because I see 200 to 300 patients a day and I don’t want to expose them to any kind of risk because of me. So it’s critical for me to wear the PPE at the centre and to take necessary precautions once I get back home,” she said.
It helps that she gets emotional support from colleagues. “At the centre, doctors and nurses keep each other smiling and spread happiness as much as possible especially during breaks. We get small gifts or food for each other, take selfies and talk about everything except the pandemic,” she said.
Dr. Sultana said she gets a lot of questions from people on their “general worries and doubts regarding the virus”. “I always answer them through WhatsApp or call them when I am free,” she said.
Coronavirus may have put some of her personal plans on hold, including preparing for exams for a postgraduate Medicine course, Doctor of Medicine. “But that’s alright. Everything happens for a reason and right now I am doing something important, which is serving this country,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sultana said that while the lockdown in Dubai and the rest of the UAE may be easing, people shouldn’t celebrate just yet.
“We have seen the same mistake when the Spanish flu hit. That time, the lockdown started easing so naturally people were rejoicing. The second wave of the flu was much more disastrous than the first. We can not afford to repeat the same mistake,” Dr. Sultana said.
“The lockdown is easing but the virus isn’t, so people need to continue to stay at home and not celebrate just yet,” she said.
1. Take care of your health and wear a face mask the right way
2. Wash your hands and sanitize frequently
3. Practice social distancing. Do not underestimate its importance.
4. Take care of your mental health. Feelings of anxiety and depression may creep up due to isolation, so focus on things you can control. Breathing techniques and exploring hobbies can be great at a time like this. Talk and spend time with family or friends through the internet.
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