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Since the early days of The Fred Hollows Foundation more than two decades ago, nurses and frontline health workers have been the engine that powers our sight-saving work. Which is why there’s no better time to salute these professionals than on International Nurses Day, wherever they are and whatever good work they are doing in the world.
The Foundation’s Founding Director Gabi Hollows is incredibly thankful for the role nurses and frontline health workers have played in our story.
“Fred had a vision. But a vision only becomes a reality when people who believe in it roll up their sleeves and make it real. Nurses are those people,” Gabi says.
It’s impossible to estimate how many people would still be blind today, if not for our nurses – but it would be many millions.”
Right now, many nurses who would usually be helping to restore sight have been called to the fore as part of the COVID-19 emergency response.
Here are some of the stories of these inspiring nurses.
Aizel is a dedicated nurse who normally assists patients through the journey of having their sight restored as part of The Fred Hollows Foundation’s work. But right now, she is among the frontline workers responding to COVID-19.
Aizel’s provincial hospital needs nurses to work double time to look after patients during this pandemic. So even though Aizel is pregnant and her family is hesitant for her to go to work, she is taking her nursing duties seriously, while being twice as careful to ensure her own safety.
“We don’t have enough staff, so even if my family doesn’t want me to be a frontliner, I myself volunteered to give my services as a health worker. This is my job to serve the people,” Aizel says.
Nurse Khera treats patients with eye diseases and vision problems as part of her regular duties. But during these unprecedented times, she has been re-assigned as a triage nurse responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
While Khera’s husband is worried about her being exposed to the virus, especially since they have young children, Khera explained to him why health workers like her have to do their duty at this time of crisis.
“I am thinking about service. As a health care worker, I need to give my service especially during these times. Even if the gear we wear could be hot and uncomfortable, we need to make these sacrifices because it is our duty,” Khera says.
Khera is still in communication with The Foundation’s partner optometrists and ophthalmologists, and is looking forward to serving her eye patients once things go back to normal.
“Working at the eye clinic makes me happy, and it touches me deeply, especially when I see patients after their operation.”
In Kenyan counties such as Meru, Migori and Baringo, trained eye health workers have been redeployed to deal with COVID-19 cases. These include three eye health staff who have been trained and remain on high alert for emergency response.
Nurse Mary is one such worker from Migori county who has been trained as a response officer in the event of COVID-19 case management.
“Coronavirus is real and personal protection is key. Self-control and discipline is necessary as we manage our clients at every screening point,” Mary says.
Even though some eye health services are continuing in Migori, there are no resources to help protect people from COVID-19 in the eye clinics. Eye health equipment such as slit lamps needs to be fitted with special transparent screens to reduce the risk of infection. And Mary is committed to sharing information on maintaining good personal hygiene with patients to slow the spread of COVID-19.
To read more about The Fred Hollows Foundation’s COVID-19 response, visit hollows.org