Working round-the-clock shifts at the Ghantoot quarantine facility during one of the most precarious phases of the pandemic, Amal Al Busaeedi takes an extra mile and her tireless devotion to her role is recognised by the Frontline Heroes Office.
For most people, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was a time of great fear and anxiety. For Amal Bader Al Busaeedi, it was her calling in life – an opportunity to put her skills and training to use.
“When COVID-19 arrived in the UAE, there was no question of what I would do,” she said. “This was my moment to step up and give back to the nation. My military training, which I completed in 2019, prepared me for a crisis.”
An Emirati citizen based in Abu Dhabi, Amal is Head of Technical Support Unit at the Emirates Red Crescent. When COVID-19 arrived in the UAE, she immediately volunteered to work at the sharp end of the nation’s response – the Ghantout quarantine facility of the organisation’s Crisis and Emergency Department.
Amal is among thousands of professionals and volunteers who have been recognised by the Frontline Heroes Office (FHO) for going beyond the call of duty to protect people’s health and wellbeing during the pandemic.
Since the outbreak of the virus, she has helped people to settle at the quarantine site, ensuring they have access to items including medication and are sufficiently comfortable to rest and recover, all while maintaining social distancing. She describes the role as requiring “empathy, understanding and hope”. “I don’t intend to leave until this crisis is finally over,” she says.
Describing the early days of the pandemic, she said: “The virus came so quickly that no one knew what to expect. People arrived at the quarantine centre after landing at the airport looking terrified and not knowing what to do. They needed somebody to show them how to get through this.
“Hospitals sent us non-critical patients. We worked to calm them down because most came convinced that they were going to die. Those from other emirates often didn’t have extra clothes or private amenities with them. They needed everything and we ensured they were comfortable.
“That initial period was very difficult for me. In those days we would see 200 people or more in each hotel at a time, excluding their children. We were working nearly 24 hours a day and were lucky to sleep for even two hours. Whenever my phone rang, I had to be ready to get back to work.”
Like many others fighting the pandemic, the hardest part for Amal was having limited access to loved ones. In Amal’s case, her desire to serve her nation may have caused harm to those she cared for most.
“The crisis really hit when I visited home for just a day to see my mother after three months away,” she said. “Within a day she was sick with a dry cough, fever and other signs of COVID-19. Despite the fact that I had tested negative prior to seeing her, I’m 90 percent certain I had infected her.
“I was faced with the reality that my mother had most probably become sick as a result of my work. I cried unconsolably that night as I dealt with the sense of guilt. I had to take care of my mother, but felt torn between this responsibility and my desire to serve the nation.”
Amal’s mother spent time in quarantine, which, as luck would have it, involved her recovering at the Ghantout facility.
“I was able to keep an eye on her and make sure she was in good spirits,” said Amal. “After a month, she recovered, and the doctors allowed her to go home so long as she maintained social distancing. Eventually my two sisters also contracted COVID-19. However, they were able to recover quickly and self-quarantined at home.”
Amal says her experience has made her braver and more willing to take chances in life, such as volunteering to take part in the UAE’s vaccine trials.
“The most important thing we have learned is that this is our moment to sacrifice for our nation,” she said. “This is our time to stand together as one, for a country that has bestowed so much upon us. We will look back at this historic moment with great pride.”
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