• Long-serving nurse at the Infectious Disease Control Department of Preventative Medicine in Umm Al Quwain is one of the heroes recognised and supported by the Frontline Heroes Office for her efforts during the pandemic.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: “My father used to say that nurses sit among the angels,” said Zainab Ahmed Fahim, a dedicated frontline hero, as she remembers the moment when she decided to become a nurse.

It was in her native Egypt, devotedly sitting at her father’s bedside in hospital. She was struck by the impact nurses had on people’s lives and the high regard in which they were held by patients and medical staff alike. 

“He dreamed that one of his daughters would become a nurse – and I answered his wishes,” she added.

Now aged 52 and following more than three decades working as a nurse in the UAE. “My husband and I chose to come to the UAE because we loved Sheikh Zayed and had heard so much about this growing country. The people here are so kind and respectful, no matter who you are and where you come from.” 

Zainab is one of the frontline heroes who have been recognised by the Frontline Heroes Office for taking exceptional measures to protect people’s wellbeing during the pandemic. 

With cases still prevalent, healthcare professionals including Zainab are continuing to treat COVID-19 patients, working long hours and sacrificing their family lives to help others. 

Thinking back to the early days of the pandemic, she said: “I was shocked – we had never seen anything like it. Every day we got new insights and details about a novel disease that created as much fear as illness.

“When Umm Al Quwain Hospital informed me of the first suspected case, I immediately took the assignment. I contacted the patient and explained details about COVID-19 to him. I asked him about his symptoms. He had a slight fever and tested positive for the virus, so we had to take him to quarantine.

“I soon found myself racing down the highway in an ambulance to pick Umm Al Quwain’s first COVID-19 patient. He was terrified, and I tried to calm him and gave him my phone number in case he needed anything. We spoke several times during his quarantine, and I reached out to his contacts to take them for quarantine as well. Eventually the patient recovered, and I have remained in touch with him – we regularly send each other greetings and messages.”

During the pandemic, Zainab has drawn on all of her 31 years of nursing experience. When she arrived to the UAE with her husband, her first job was in the Accident and Emergency department at Sharjah’s Al Qassimi Hospital. Seven years later she transferred to the Infectious Disease Control Department of Preventative Medicine in Umm Al Quwain, where she has been working ever since. Her role in monitoring infectious diseases and involvement in vaccination programmes have helped to prepare her for being on the frontline in the fight against the pandemic.

“Alhamdulillah I was never afraid, especially as I work with infectious diseases,” she said. “We worked long hours, were on duty around the clock, and got little sleep. I rested when the patients were recovering. I was with them every step and second of the way. The days all seemed to melt into each other – we didn’t know night from day. 

“My colleagues and my boss made me feel important and praised me. They would say “Yalla Zanouba…masha-Allah”. They boosted my morale when I most needed it.

“I am especially grateful for my husband’s support. My family gave me the motivation to keep moving forward. I had sometimes forgotten to eat and couldn’t keep a close eye on what was happening at home with the family. When I came home, I stayed in a separate room and used a separate bathroom from them just in case. I prayed as much as I could.”

Zainab has worked extra hours in public places such as fish markets and, fruits and vegetables shops to vaccinate people and raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention. Her devotion to the job has resulted in letters of commendation from the UAE’s leadership. 

“I was so moved that my efforts are being recognized. The pinnacle of the experience for me was when I received letters from Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed and Sheikha Fatima, thanking me for my service,” said Zainab. 

“I’m just a nurse who wanted to do good for people and they appreciated my work. Helping patients recover is a beautiful feeling that I can’t describe. I am proud to have been able to live up to my father’s wishes.”