Frontline worker profiles: Nurse volunteered for COVID ward

See also: The invisible army in the war against COVID-19

On Cayman’s main COVID-19 ward, the young nurse pulls on her uniform – the protective blue gown, the white surgical gloves, the N95 mask and face shield.

Across the top of her visor she has written her name, Alia, in black marker. 

That way, the patients can get to know her, even if they can’t see her face behind the protective layers.

Like everyone on the respiratory ward at the Cayman Islands Hospital, Alia Huizinga-Wright volunteered for the job.

Over the last two months, she has helped nurse patients with the most serious symptoms of the coronavirus back to health.

“When they first come in, they are very fearful; they have almost taken it like a death sentence,” she said.

“[For most of them] all they need is oxygen, medication and encouragement to use respiratory devices.”

The highly contagious nature of the virus means that no friends and family are allowed to visit the patients. In their absence, the nurses try to help fill the void.

“They can’t have their husband or their wife or their children at their bedside – you are there instead. We actually end up talking a lot and spending a lot of time together … you actually become quite close.”

It is a two-way street. Many of the doctors and nurses on the ward have been separated from their own families as well.

Huizinga-Wright is currently living in a hotel that has been re-purposed for essential workers. 

Though she misses her mum and sister and their five dogs, she is happy that she is not putting them in danger.

She admits her family had initial reservations about the role she is playing.

Even staff at the hospital were prepared for a potentially chaotic situation.

“There was a huge period of uncertainty and we thought maybe we would be overwhelmed, like places we have seen in Italy,” she said.

The hospital and the island have been lucky, she believes, that the necessary personal protective equipment was bought and that people listened to the ‘stay home’ advice and slowed the spread of the virus.

When the crisis is over, she hopes she might pass some of her former patients in the street or in the store.

“I have seen them go from being so sick to so much better and inside I am thinking, I hope I see this person in six months walking around the grocery store doing great,” she said.

She wonders if they will recognise her without her protective uniform.

“I will give them a wave anyway,” she said.

Related: The invisible army in the war against COVID-19

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