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For frontliners, duty comes first

For frontliners, duty comes first
Lab technologist Noor Hamiza Gulam urged Malaysians to comply with the MCO and advisories issued by the government. -Astro AWANI
SEREMBAN: When assistant medical officer Mohd Aizuddin Bahrun returns home after a long day at work at Hospital Tuanku Jaafar Seremban (HTJS), it breaks his heart when his eight-month-old toddler Affan crawls up to him eagerly.

“My baby wants to be carried and cuddled but I can’t do that until I’ve bathed and changed or else it will be risky.
"I also feel bad when my older children Jannah (eight years old) and Aiman (six) keep complaining that they can’t see me and their mother because we return home late from work,” he said.

Mohd Aizuddin, 34, who works at the Isolation Unit at the Emergency and Trauma Department, HTJS, said he helps medical officers (MO) to screen and take samples from COVID-19 patients under investigation (PUI).
His wife Dr Wan Jamilah Wan Ismail, 36, is an MO at Hospital Tuanku Ampuan Najihah, Kuala Pilah, and she is among the first responders managing the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Due to their job demands in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Wan Jamilah’s niece is helping to take care of the couple’s three children since schools, kindergartens and nurseries are shut throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO) period from March 18 to April 14.

Mohd Aizuddin admitted he and his wife have neglected their children since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak as they have been working extra hours.

He said his children have been given homework to do by their teachers but when he is at home, he is too tired to coach them or organise activities for them. In fact, he does not even have time to chat with his wife these days as they are both busy with work.

It is not Mohd Aizuddin’s intention to complain or seek sympathy. But it is part of the sacrifices frontliners like him and his wife have to make in their struggle to help the nation fight the COVID-19 crisis.

On social media platforms, many netizens have shared photographs and videos of doctors and healthcare workers who are emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted and sapped of energy.

One such video, titled ‘Doktor Menangis Terlalu Penat’ (Doctor in Tears Due to Exhaustion), went viral on Facebook recently. According to the 4.35-second video, what frontliners feared most was suffering from burnout and exhaustion and losing the zeal to work.

This is because some of them have to toil for up to 18 hours a day and are forced to sleep at the workplace.

In another video titled ‘Nurse Menangis Tinggal Keluarga Bertugas Perangi COVID-19’ (Nurse Cries Because Have to Leave Family to Fight COVID-19), a woman dressed as a nurse is seen crying outside her house because she cannot go near her family members.

The 1.40-second video shows the nurse wiping her tears when her mother advises her to take care while on duty and pleads with her to stop crying.

Asked what he does to ensure that he is not contaminated by the coronavirus, Mohd Aizuddin said when he returns home from work, he would remove his work clothes while still outside the house and go straight to the bathroom to take a bath.

“I wash my used work clothes myself as I don’t want to mix it with the other clothes. I also wash my hands regularly and have taught my children to do so too,” he said.

Being on the hospital’s frontline and dealing with patients who are at high risk of being tested positive for COVID-19, Mohd Aizuddin is aware that he could return home carrying the virus.

“Of course, it worries me and makes me fearful. But I’m doing my duty and am willing to fulfil my responsibilities for the people and the country. Anything more than that, I leave it to Allah,” he added.

He also urged Malaysians to comply with the MCO and advisories issued by the government as “we frontliners are not heroes… we break into tears when we are forced to leave our loved ones. Help us to fight this pandemic”.

A medical officer at HTJS’ Emergency and Trauma Department who only wanted to be identified as Dr Zulaikha said she has to leave her eight-month-old baby, who she is still breastfeeding, with her husband when she goes to work.

But when her husband has work to do, she leaves the baby at the hospital nursery.

“It’s a good thing the hospital nursery is open 24 hours. Sometimes I leave my baby there at night and take my baby back the next morning,” she added.

Dr Zulaikha said while on duty, it is compulsory for all staff to dress in scrubs (special hygienic clothing) and wear personal protective equipment when handling PUI.

“After our duty is over, we bathe and change our clothes. I also cleanse my name tag and phone with sanitising wipes,” she added. 

Editor's note: Astro AWANI had a special feature yesterday where our crew were given access into the ins and outs of the routines at the Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM's dianostics lab.

Below is an excerpt of the feature: