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Jakarta Post

Drenched in sweat, stigma, frontline nurse shares struggle treating COVID-19 patients

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, August 13, 2020   /   08:25 am
Drenched in sweat, stigma, frontline nurse shares struggle treating COVID-19 patients A nurse takes a swab sample from a man at the Tanah Abang district office in Central Jakarta. Frontline workers have to face many challenges, from bearing the discomfort of wearing a hazmat suit to facing stigma from the public. (JP/P.J.Leo)

For D, a 25-year-old nurse who works at Wisma Atlet Kemayoran temporary COVID-19 hospital in Central Jakarta, treating patients with coronavirus has been an uphill struggle.

D said every day she had to face a lot of challenges, from bearing the discomfort of wearing a hazmat suit to being harassed by frustrated patients.

"Every day we have to wear a thick hazmat suit, several layers of gloves, a face mask and face shield for eight hours. We cannot eat, drink or urinate, imagine that," she told kompas.com recently.

D, who has been assigned at the Wisma Atlet Kemayoran since May, said many fellow nurses opted to wear adult diapers but she chose not to eat and drink prior to her shift so she did not have to go to the bathroom.

Every day when she takes off her personal protective equipment (PPE), all her clothes are drenched in sweat and her fingers are wrinkled.

"But as time went by I got used to it," she said.

Uncomfortable PPE is not the only challenge D and other frontline workers have to overcome, patients often swear at her and other nurses when told they are not allowed to go home yet because they are still testing positive.

"One of the patients told us 'you don't understand how we feel, we want to go home. Why do the test results always come back positive?', she blamed us for the test result. It was upsetting to hear since we are also tired after treating many patients," D said.

D's struggle does not end at the hospital, D and other nurses still have to face stigma and discrimination from the public due to their job.

"One day I wanted to buy a drink at a small shop behind Wisma Atlet, but the clerk refused to serve me because she was afraid of getting infected," D said.

Another time, she said, a restaurant owner refused to serve one of her fellow nurses after seeing that she was wearing a shirt with the hospital name.

Moreover, D said it was discouraging to hear people talking about conspiracy theories, saying that the coronavirus does not exist and that hospitals were just trying to make money.

"I experienced it first hand. How could we possibly try to make a profit [out of the pandemic]? [When I am on duty] I have to struggle to take each breath to treat strangers, so such things are very upsetting [to hear]," she said.

D also said she felt disheartened to see a lot of people starting to visit shopping malls and gathering at restaurants without following health protocols.

"I am disappointed, it seems they don't appreciate our warning to stay at home," she said.

Despite the struggle, D said there were also heartwarming moments when patients appreciate the nurses' hard work.

"Sometimes, patients send food to towers 2 and 3 of the hospital, where we are staying. Such a simple act really makes us happy because it means there are people who appreciate our work," she said. (nal)