Frontline hero Esraa Al Agha shows enormous desire to take on demanding volunteer medical work in multiple hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country.
Ajman: Contacting someone to break the news that a loved one is gravely ill is one of the hardest aspects of work in the medical profession. For 22-year-old Esraa Al Agha, it was part of daily life volunteering during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Esraa’s work has taken her from Ajman Preventative Medicine Centre to Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah and multiple medical facilities around the country. She is among the countless healthcare professionals and volunteers who have been recognised by the Frontline Heroes Office for going to exceptional lengths to safeguard people’s wellbeing during the pandemic.
For Esraa, the experience has exposed her to sadness and hardship, but also great positivity. She describes her tireless volunteer work conducting COVID tests and acting as a patient liaison around the UAE as emotionally draining, but also the most gratifying role she has ever undertaken.
“Imagine calling a father to tell him that his seven-year-old daughter was infected with COVID-19 and a special team were on the way to take her into quarantine,” she said. “The girl had symptoms and her family had brought her in for testing. When she tested positive, it was my role to make that phone call. I struggled to control myself when he burst into tears, knowing that his only daughter was in danger and that he couldn’t be with her.
“I did my best to stay calm and reassure him that she was in the best hands. For 14 days, the girl, who has asthma, battled the virus. I kept in touch with her parents, giving them updates every day and setting up Zoom calls for them to talk. Once the girl recovered and tested negative, I was excited to call the father again to ask him to come and collect his daughter. The experience was the most unforgettable of my time as a volunteer during the pandemic.”
Esraa, who lives in Ajman and has Jordanian nationality, is a medical student at Dubai Medical College. She lives with her two younger brothers and her mother, who is battling cancer. Prior to the pandemic, she went to college in the mornings and gave private maths tutoring in the evenings to earn extra income for her family.
Soon after the outbreak, she responded to a Takatof message calling for volunteers to support the medical work at Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah. She knew it would be a unique opportunity to contribute to the fight against the virus. Esraa signed up for daily shifts, mainly as a liaison between patients’ families and the healthcare teams. She counselled relatives who were restricted from visiting loved ones.
“It was emotionally difficult, and I was often faced with distraught people who were desperate for information,” she said. “The hours at the hospital were long and the number of cases immense. There were so many stories of pain, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. We were on our feet for the whole day, often without a break. We were regularly exposed to COVID-19 infected people and the associated risks that it brought. Each time I took a PCR test, I would wait for a negative result and then return to work.”
In April 2020, Esraa also volunteered to help doctors working in quarantine hotels. She spent about 40 days volunteering there, at which point she was working around the clock in direct contact with infected patients.
“I was afraid to go home because the risks were too high,” she said. “During earlier months of the pandemic, I saw my mother only on Fridays and only after I tested negative. I did the test so many times and I am blessed never to have contracted the virus. My mother is my true inspiration. When we spoke, she admitted she missed me but always encouraged me to get back to work.”
Esraa’s incredible appetite for volunteering took her to three other hospitals in Sharjah, Ajman and Dubai. She enrolled in extra training courses on swabbing and testing and was promoted to team leader at the Field Hospital in Expo Centre in Sharjah. She even motivated her brothers to volunteer at Al Qassimi Hospital.
Although the work is emotional and difficult, she will never forget the moments when she passed on news that a loved one had recovered from the disease. She describes it as the most gratifying work she has ever done. Her motivation for her countless hours of hard work is simple. “I was born in the UAE and I have lived all my life here,” she said. “All my efforts are my way of giving back to this country.” To-date, Esraa Al Agha remains a hero as she continues her frontline volunteer work with Takatof. She is currently playing an active role in the vaccination campaign administering vaccines.