Frontline worker profiles: Lab manager at the centre of the crisis response

Gayon Allen-Goulborne
Gayon Allen-Goulborne in the lab processing samples.

As the manager of a COVID-19 testing laboratory, Gayon Allen-Goulbourne has one of the most critical jobs in the country.

The samples she processes at CTMH Doctors Hospital will help determine if and when Cayman can get back to work.

“We know the way to get the country back up and running is to test, test, test, so we know we play a very important role and I am very happy to be a part of it,” she said.

Gayon Allen-Goulborne
Gayon Allen-Goulborne

Her position on the front lines is not without its sacrifices. When she gets home after a long day at the lab, she would like nothing better than to hug her kids.

But that is not possible right now.

Since the outbreak began, she has had to train her children – ages 1 and 3 – in social distancing.

“When the COVID-19 thing started, I tried not to hug them so they wouldn’t want to hug anybody when they go out.”

Instead, they have developed a code. She crosses her arms across her chest or blows kisses from a few feet away.

“They don’t understand the details but they understand we have to avoid each other for now and that doesn’t mean I love them any less.”

Allen-Goulbourne’s professional role puts her right at the centre of the coronavirus fight. She works alongside her colleagues in the lab to process hundreds of samples to produce some of the results announced every day on government television.

It can be nerve-racking getting the first report of the state of the nation’s health.

“You can see it on the computer before the analysis is actually finished,” she said.

The first time she saw the red line denoting a positive test, she admits, her heart was in her mouth.

“Based on the graphs and the spikes, you can see it and we saw it rising, rising. I got nervous… thinking, ‘Oh my god, we have a positive’.”

Prior to the COVID crisis, she worked in the pharmaceutical laboratory at the hospital. When she was asked to be part of the team creating a new coronavirus testing lab, she admits she thought it was impossible.

Now she is training other lab techs to help her perform the role.

Though she is proud of the part she is playing, she does not feel like a hero.

“I think the big hero in all of this is my husband, Hilzan. He is very supportive,” she said.

Gayon Allen-Goulbourne with her family.

“He will be home all day with the kids and I will come home and he will say go and rest and he is still there with the kids.

“After all this is over, I want him to have a getaway.”

The virus and the damage it has done across the world have given her a new outlook on life.

“Who would have known that the world would have come to this?

“We used to take so much for granted and this is just an eye-opener for everyone,” she said.

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