The struggle of health personnel often goes unnoticed by many, who see it as part of their job. But it is perhaps high time that we paid more attention to the sacrifices and commitment they demonstrate amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The medical labor force working at the frontlines and risking infection deserve nothing less than respect, including Serife Tabak, a 24-year-old Turkish nurse who caught the virus and upon recovering asked her superiors to be reassigned to the virus duty.

On April 12, following a tiresome shift, Serife returned home with pain in her back and legs and went to bed to prepare for the next day.

But that morning was different than usual as she still felt tired and experienced a loss of smell and taste — symptoms common among coronavirus patients.

“I requested a coronavirus test on April 14 and it was positive,” she said, adding it was likely that she caught the coronavirus while working on virus duty as she lived alone and had almost no contact with other people.

Upon learning of her condition, health authorities quickly moved to provide essential medical care.
“I was referred to a hospital right away and stayed there for four days. Then I was told to self-isolate at home. I got discharged and went straight home,” she said.

“Thank God my colleagues provided me with food and beverages, while family members were vigilant as well,” she said. “They would leave the items at the door and leave. Then I’d take them inside.”

Although not suffering from any major health problems, Serife had nightmares about death for a brief period. She said she was aware that she was unlikely to die from the virus but could not help questioning the possibility for a while.

Her constant contact with family members and passion for drawing kept her mind busy and eased the recovery process, which was assisted by a primary care physician on call 24/7.

“I was not in a terrible situation and had seen much worse cases [on duty],” she said.

After completing her isolation period and testing negative twice for the virus, she rushed back to her employer, urging her superiors to re-assign her to coronavirus patients.

But she was turned down as coronavirus cases had significantly declined in Turkey and her efforts were no longer required in that field and she was transferred to another department of the hospital.

Serife explained her motivation to return to virus duty with a single word: “empathy.”

“Our job requires one to have an occupational conscience and to adopt an understanding based on empathy. After all, the person in intensive care could be me or somebody I love.”

She went on to say that she was inspired by the courage of her colleagues who do not hesitate to rush to the frontlines and help patients in need.

Turkey’s Health Ministry has registered nearly 140,000 coronavirus cases so far, with recoveries nearing 96,000. The authorities have eased coronavirus measures while travel bans in many major cities continue along with weekend curfews.

Serife called on people to remain committed to adhering to the measures suggested by the Health Ministry such as social isolation and stay-at-home policies while paying extra attention to wearing gloves and masks when going outside.

“Let us not think this disease is done,” she warned, adding collective irresponsibility could trigger a second wave of infection among the people – an issue recently raised by authorities across the globe.

“Better safe than sorry,” she added.

Serife urged patients and their relatives to have a sense of empathy for hard-working medical staff and to show more support and understanding amid such difficult times, which she said would work in favor of both sides.

The death toll in Turkey from the coronavirus currently stands at 3,841 — which corresponds to 46 deaths per a million, according to data provided by Worldometer, an online source for international statistics.

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