I’ve seen many difficult things in my 22 years working as a nurse at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). But seeing a Covid-19-infected foreign worker praying on the cold, bare hospital floor without a prayer mat was one of the most heart-wrenching moments.
I remember that day in early April… it had been about a month since I moved from the surgical wards and was tasked to convert normal wards to isolation wards to accommodate the rising number of Covid-19 patients, a large number of whom were Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh.
Quickly, I distributed hospital blankets to the workers to use as temporary prayer mats. But we were also in need of a huge supply for fresh clothing, as the hospital supplies were being depleted ,with more workers being admitted every day.
The patients’ old clothes were contaminated, and the virus may spread via the soiled clothes, but they didn’t have new ones. Their stay included the days spent at the hospital wards, and the Community Care Facilities (CCF) when their condition improved.
Seeing the urgency, I asked my colleagues, friends and family to donate prayer mats and clothing. From the moment I sent my first Whatsapp message, donations came pouring in.
We received well over 500 pieces of mats and clothes, along with other essential items, enough to assemble care packages for patients who were on their way to the CCF.
My family helped collect donations from more than 50 families, sorting out the items in bundles at home before sending them to me at SGH. There were others who brought the items to the hospital. The donated items included belts, body washes, shampoos, toothbrushes, towels, water bottles, instant coffee, biscuits, and even notes of encouragement!
It was a mammoth task sorting out the piles of clothing by size, and making sure that they were in good condition. It took days to do this and my staff helped me every day. At the end of their shifts (even though they were very tired), they would ask if there was more they could do.
We’ve given out over 500 care packages to the Bengali patients before they were transferred to CCF. Although there was a language barrier, no words could describe their joy when they opened the bundle to see all the essential items inside.
As I said goodbye to each of them, some stood at the exit and cried before leaving the hospital ward. One walked out but came back to say, “Thank you for everything”. That moment still moves me to tears.
I’m so humbled by the experience – and the quick response from people who came forward to help. It was a great collective effort to be there for the foreign workers at a time when they needed help the most.
This article was first published in Her World’s August issue. Grab a copy today!