As we rung in the new year 2020, the other side of the world was already battling a deadly epidemic. Little did we know at that time that our lives would be forever altered as that epidemic quickly spread to become the pandemic still holding the world hostage in its deadly grip today. Over 2.5 million have been sickened by the COVID19 virus, and tragically over 175,000 have died worldwide. Those numbers are still growing. Life, as we know it, has come to a grinding halt.  As shelter-in-place orders went into effect, schools and businesses closed. Our mosques closed. And while most of us are quarantined in our homes trying to stay safe and healthy, there is a large segment of the population who are still out there, on the front lines as it were. They are the heroes putting their own lives at risk for us. Maybe you know some of them. They live and work right here in our own community. One of these heroes is Bahia Salah. This is some of the valuable insight she shared when I interviewed her.

Q1.  What type of healthcare professional are you, where do you work, and how long have you been in this profession?

A1.  I am a Registered Nurse, I graduated from University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing in May of 2017. For the last 3 years I have been working as a Trauma Surgery/Medical RN at Advocate Christ Medical Center.

Q2.  Have you had to treat any COVID19 patients in your capacity?

A2.  About one month ago, my unit fully transitioned into a COVID19 unit to help aid with the influx of patients affected by this pandemic. Currently, my position encompasses taking care of patients undergoing testing for COVID19 or those who have tested positive. Each nurse is assigned 3-4 patients to take care of during our 12-hour shift. These patients require frequent monitoring and attention because their conditions can rapidly change at any moment. Provided with our full PPE, our team of nurses are doing all we can to take care of and support these patients during this difficult time. Guidelines and protocols are constantly changing so it requires patience and an open mind to keep up with all the changes. 

Q3.  Do you think that this pandemic and the unprecedented effects it has had on the world is a preview of future scenarios of widespread diseases?

A3.  If one clear thing has come from this pandemic, it is safe to say that, although no one could have predicted the extent to which this virus has impacted each and every person’s life, we need to be more prepared for anything remotely similar in the future. We now know that being moderately prepared is no longer sufficient. While we can’t change the past, we can change our policies moving forward. I believe that we will be significantly more equipped and ready for the next outbreak, whatever that may be. 

Q4.  How has potentially putting yourself at risk to care for others affected you and your family?

A4.  Although I am humbled and honored to be able to help during a difficult time like this, it has not been easy to get used to completely socially distancing myself from my loved ones, especially since there is no foreseeable end to this quarantine. I am a very family oriented person, and I’m used to seeing my family almost every day. However, I know that being around them is not a risk that I can take and that protecting them is enough motivation to adhere to the strict guidelines. I know that I have a duty to fulfill and so I put my trust and faith in Allah (swt) in this challenging time.

Q5.  Do you believe the stay at home order has slowed the spread of this disease?

A5.  Absolutely. Considering the COVID19-positive patients in our hospital, it’s become apparent that so many contracted the disease not from family members, but rather from some random exposure in the public. The stay at home order has drastically reduced contact between people in public, whether that was from going out to restaurants or going to watch a movie. While we can’t definitively compare how things are now to how they could have been had we not implemented such an order, I think it’s safe to say that it definitely helped reduce the influx of cases that we’ve seen.

Q6.  What message would you give to our community this Ramadan?

A6.  If this virus has made one thing evident, it is to not take for granted the little things we have in life and to take into account what really matters. This Ramadan, focus on what’s important and take away all the distractions of life to better ourselves as Muslims, trying to correct our bad habits, perfecting our salah, focusing on reading and memorizing Quran, and learning to practice patience in all aspects of life. Stay home and stay safe and a very blessed Ramadan to you and your families. May Allah (swt) protect us all!

We are humbled and proud to recognize all our heroes during this difficult time. We owe you our gratitude and appreciation. So to Bahia, and all the healthcare professionals; to law enforcement; to firefighters and emergency services; to grocery store workers; to public transportation workers; to delivery workers and postal workers; and any others on the front line I may have inadvertently omitted… THANK YOU! YOU ARE ALL HEROES!

By Connie Martin