Leaving behind his four-month-old child was a heart-breaking moment for Vinod Sebastian, one of the senior nurses among the Indian medical team from India. “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,” he says.
A 105-member medical team from Kerala travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on a medical mission to treat COVID-19 patients on Wednesday early morning. The medical team comprising of members from almost all the districts of Kerala departed to Abu Dhabi from Cochin International Airport on a specially chartered Etihad aircraft.
An initiative of VPS Healthcare, a healthcare group in the UAE, the team members will be working in the critical care units various Covid-19 hospitals across the emirates. This will further strengthen the efforts of the UAE government in combating COVID-19.
A nurse with over 11 years of experience, Vinod has been a member of the volunteer support group when Kerala was hit by a devastating flood in 2018. In his maiden journey to UAE, he is fully prepared to be on the frontline of this battle against the deadly virus and care 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 it 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 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,” he added. The 40-year-old from Kerala’s Ernakulam district is married and has two children.
For 25-year-old KT Kamarunissa from Kerala’s Kozhikode district, the chance to serving the people during this healthcare emergency is a dream come true. “I always wanted to serve COVID-19 patients. 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 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.
Seeing her enthusiasm and confidence, even her family and husband stood by her. “All were supportive. Or they didn’t show the tension on their face,” she added. Her only issue was of being separated 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 the suffering is my duty and I am up for it. I will be meeting my child after winning this battle,” said Kamarunissa. She has the experience of treating a Nipah-infected patient when there was an outbreak in Kozhikode district of Kerala in 2018.
V R Rakhi, another nurse in the group, said her parents were bit tensed 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 now in a private hospital in Kerala.
“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 from Kerala landed at Abu Dhabi Airport around 7 am. 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 frontlines of the UAE’s battle against COVID-19 after their initial training for a few days.
The journey of the Indian medical team from Kerala to the UAE was by itself an experience for all. As lockdown measures are in place in Kerala due to COVID-19, assembling the team at Kochi was a humungous task. Particularly, as the members of the team were from almost all districts of Kerala.
But thanks to the Kerala government. 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 prior. Each came 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, which is central Kerala and 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 were asked to strictly follow health guidelines. The results of all came negative 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 team travelled to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday early morning on a specially chartered Etihad aircraft.