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Defying Fear, Nurse Greets News of her Infection with COVID-19 with a Seflie

Defying Fear, Nurse Greets News of her Infection with COVID-19 with a Seflie

Wednesday, 27 May, 2020 - 11:30
Efraj takes a selfie after being informed of her coronavirus diagnosis.
Cairo - Mohammed Abdo Hassanein

Efraj Fathi Bakri became one of more than 100 medical staff workers infected with the coronavirus in Egypt. Ten of those infected have died.

Efraj, 32, works as a nurse at the Chest Hospital in Beni Suef, south of Cairo, and is currently staying at home completing the second stage of her quarantine. In an exclusive interview, Efraj told Asharq Al-Awsat how she went against her family’s concerns over her working in the isolation ward in hospital, which she continued to do until eventually contracting the virus. She has accepted her diagnosis and is certain that she will overcome it.

It all started with her working at the intensive care unit at the hospital, far from the isolated coronavirus cases. After the first positive case was admitted, she realized that some of the nurses were worried about interacting with the patient.

Efraj said: “With shortages in capacities and the general state of anxiety, it was hard for us at the beginning of the crisis. I could have continued doing my regular job and stayed away from coronavirus patients, but I decided on volunteering to join the isolation staff for humanitarian reasons to contribute, however minimally, to preventing the spread of the virus”.

Efraj took a decision that she could not walk back on, and she asked the hospital to provide her with housing, leaving her job at a private medical center for fear of spreading the virus. She had a firm response to the objections that she had expected from her family. She claimed that it had been a “mandatory appointment” by the Ministry of Health.

She said: “As soon as I told my family, they all objected for fear over my health and my three children… However, I did not leave them any room for discussion and disregarded their warnings.”

She also referred to four of her colleagues who followed her example, insisting that their names be mentioned: Mahjoub Shaaban, Marwa Hussein, Tahani Yassin and Najwa Khallaf. The latter two also contracted the virus.

Her assignment was to last for 14 days. However, on the penultimate day, the attending doctor noticed that Efraj was exhausted after climbing the hospital stairs, so he decided to test everyone. She was certain that the diagnosis would be positive and started packing her bags in preparation for her isolation.

The director of the hospital cautiously informed Efraj about the results to avoid shocking her, but she told him that she had been expecting this result and asked him to join her in a pre-isolation selfie.

Eraj lives in the village of Ehwa in Beni Suef. Her husband and three children, a daughter and two sons, the eldest of whom is in primary school, were informed of her infection the next day, after the "preventative medical staff" had been sent to sterilize the house. Her family broke down, thinking that this was a "permanent separation", especially since Efraj's father had passed away only two months before.

In mid-April Efraj was moved to the city of Mallawi in Minya to be quarantined. "I was looking at it as an opportunity to reflect and prioritize, so I read books and novels on the Internet," she recalled. After 17 years of experience in nursing, she overcame the most difficult circumstances in fighting COVID-19.

Efraj did not regret working in the isolation hospital for a second, saying: “I reassured myself that dying in these circumstances would be the best end I could have hoped for.” She spent 16 days in quarantine, and after two tests returned positive, the third returned negative, which allowed her to see her children again after around 40 days of working and receiving treatment.

Efraj is currently suffering from pulmonary complications despite having recovered from the virus and is still in convalescent leave, but she would like to return to work at the isolation ward again and is "awaiting the doctors’ approval”.

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