Rujina Begum is a nurse at North Middlesex Hospital, London. She cared for the first Covid positive baby in Britain. Here is her story on Brit-Bangla COVID.
RUJINA ’S EARLY LIFE:
Rujina lives with her husband and 15 year old son in a housing association accommodation in Tower Hamlets. Rujina is 40 years old. She describes her background as being very traditional. When she was growing up in the borough, she mostly spoke Bengali/Sylhetti at home. She went to Mulberry Girls School where she spoke English with her friends and class mates. She says:
‘My parents never really encouraged me to study and get a career. They weren't really clued up with all these things. I drifted throughout my teenage years. It was only when I had my son, who was born premature and he was in the Neo-Natal Unit, that I first realised that something existed where pre-mature babies were born and looked after... This is something I didn't mind doing.’
After giving birth, she was a full time mother and housewife. Once her son went to school, she felt she was able to concentrate on her passion to be a nurse. She knew she could not pursue a career until she had completed her maths GCSE. She retook the subject. Straight after finishing it she went on to do an access course in nursing. Having obtained a distinction in the course, she pursued her career by doing children’s nursing degree which she eventually completed in summer 2017. She was later offered a job at Middlesex Hospital where she developed her practice. She was comfortable and happy at work until the beginning of the crisis.
COVID POSITIVE BABIES
At first it was just a rumour she heard on the news. Before Rujina was trained on how to use the mask and PPE, she heard about the first positive Covid baby admitted into her unit.
‘I panicked because firstly, I have not had my mask fitted nor had training on PPE. And now, before we completed our training, we have to deal with it…Luckily I was not allocated the baby. On the following shift I had my mask fitted and I felt pretty confident…The reality kicked in when I was allocated to look after the Covid positive baby. It was like - Oh my god, I can’t get this wrong. If I get this wrong, a lot of people can be sick - myself, colleagues and my family - so I had to be very careful. That was a huge responsibility.’
Rujina fed and gave attention to the baby. She also had to balance it with handing the baby as less frequently as possible. She panicked when she tried to take off the PPE after handing the baby. She made sure she washed her hands at least five times. She then observed that more Covid positive babies were coming into her unit because their mothers were tested positive. These babies were kept in self-isolation for 14 days.
Whilst Rujina was looking after the baby, she received a text message from her school friend that her mother passed away due to Covid-19 two days after she was taken to hospital. Rujina felt very emotional when she found out about the news just when she was looking after the positive baby. She was under a lot of pressure.
HOME LIFE UNDER COVID
During the lockdown Rujina’s son was studying from home. He needed a lot of attention. Their son had a routine when he was in school. His tuitions are now online for Arabic and maths. Her husband is working from home. Although both of them are safe at home Rujina has to go to work every day and do the shopping twice a week. She is also worried that she may bring Covid-19 from work.
Before the lockdown, she would hardly see her husband because she would work in the evening; and he would work during the day. Now, she would see them both at home when she is back after a long night shift. In terms of having a family life, she is happier at home. But there are other worries too:
‘I’ve been worried about my grand parents who have underlying problems. I also have to worry about my own mother because I do her shopping. I had to make a decision whether to visit her in order to take her to hospital and other essential places, or bring her to my house to get her to lockdown with us. I've decided to keep her at my place…’
Rujina’s mother had fallen ill. Rujina took her to the hospital to see whether she caught the virus. It was not confirmed that she was positive; yet she had to self-isolate and then Rujina self-isolated for 14 days. When Rujina self-isolated, she felt it helped her mentally to recover from work stress. Her work was getting too much for her.
RAMADAN UNDER COVID-19
Rujina says that Ramadan has been a blessing in disguise. Muslims were able to stay at home, fast, pray and not have to think about waking up early in the morning for work. She is doing more night shifts because she finds it easier during this period. Panick buying is also over. Rujina feels that it’s sad that they can’t go to the local mosques and pray. But she recognises that these are extraodinary times.