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Death of Sister Lini to Nipah Virus: The Sacrifices of Nurses - News - Nurses Arena Forum

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Death of Sister Lini to Nipah Virus: The Sacrifices of Nurses by katty : May 27, 2018, 02:57:56 PM
Quietly, silently it slipped in and tore through the fabric of a loving family – and before we knew it, all of us cosily watching ‘medical’ horror movies about pandemics and people dropping dead over their coffee, found ourselves touched by the real-life terror of an unknown illness. The Nipah virus, which took the life of a dozen people in a fell sweep in Kerala, India, also robbed a Bahrain expat Sajeesh, of his young wife Lini, a nurse, who contracted it while treating an affected family.

Her poignant letter of farewell to her husband moved even cynical strangers to tears. It also brought home the fact that disease can leap continents in a matter of just a commercial flight. Quite a few expats in Bahrain, who hail from Kerala, Mangalore and Karnataka which have been identified as high-risk areas, are now seriously considering postponing their summer travel back home till the all-clear is given. This is not because they are worried about catching the disease but more to avoid the hassle of being quarantined – or worse, being grounded in India – if a scare flares up in their neighbourhood.

Sentiment aside, the rapid spread of the Nipah virus highlights two things: The vulnerability of countries with dense populations to contagion and the need for a strong public health care system. I recall how a Harvard-educated doctor in public healthcare policy in India told me that the most difficult thing she had to tackle was the simple enforcement of the hand-washing rule. Why, there is even a Hand Hygiene Day (May 5) mandated by the UN. Studies show that hand-washing could prevent transmission of infections from superbugs like antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus, enterococci and multi-drug resistant organisms in health care facilities.

In Bahrain, I have observed that hand hygiene is given top priority in hospitals but falls woefully short of standards in other public places such as restaurants and spas – and, let’s admit it, in our homes too. Time and again, I have reminded waiters to wash their hands before they bring my order, because of a suspicious sniffle and this, in five-star hotel restaurants, no less.

The death of Sister Lini also underscores the real dangers that nurses face in the Indian public healthcare system where protective gear such as masks and sterilised gloves are often scarce and overcrowded hospitals lead to overworked medical teams. Nurses in the hospitals treating Nipah victims have been shunned in public. How easily we forget that our first line of care comes from the nurse who administers the medicine, cleans and comforts us and monitors us for changes in symptoms.

I am often presented with fat tomes about makers of the Gulf and they are full of glossy PR about expat tycoons and inevitably, all-male. We have forgotten that the first professionals to migrate to the Mena region were nurses and teachers and they were almost all women. They changed and shaped the history of this part of the world, imparting good health and modern knowledge with commitment and compassion. They went unrecorded except in the hearts of their patients and students but I do believe it is time to reclaim this part of the narrative of modern Bahrain.

Know a great nurse? Eulogise her on your social media, praise her to her seniors – that would be the best vote of thanks we can give to the late nurse Lini and the hundreds of unsung heroines, the nurses in our lives.

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