The 'unsung hero' known for her dedication to UAE's chronically ill

DUBAI // For Suhaila Abdulla, working with seriously ill young patients and the families who watch over them in their hospital beds is more than a career choice – it is her life. The dedication of the Emirati, as head of case management at Latifa Hospital, means she never has a weekend to completely relax […]

DUBAI // For Suhaila Abdulla, working with seriously ill young patients and the families who watch over them in their hospital beds is more than a career choice – it is her life.

The dedication of the Emirati, as head of case management at Latifa Hospital, means she never has a weekend to completely relax or enjoy herself. But she doesn’t mind at all.

“That is the job,” she said. “My phone is on 24 hours a day and I give my number to patients’ parents.

“They call me, always, even after their relative has been discharged. You might spend months, even years, with a patient’s family.”

The nature of her work handling bed management for chronic-care and long-term patients means the 45-year-old often forges long-term relationships with the families of patients on ventilators or those in a coma. One such patient has spent every second of his life at Latifa Hospital.

“Since the day he was born, 24 years ago, he has been with us, in a coma all this time,” she said.

“The parents refused to have him transferred to a dedicated long-term healthcare facilities, and they are afraid to take him in the home or transfer to any other hospital.”

Her work does, of course, mean Ms Abdulla has to deal with the cycle of life-and-death that is common to any hospital.

“When patients pass away, that is the difficult side of the job,” she said. “And that is when I need to support the patient’s family even more.”

Although she has been in her current role for 11 years, Ms Abdulla’s association with the hospital stretches back almost three decades. She was working in administration before being hand-picked for the position she now holds.

“I am very happy in my job,” she said. “I like to be with the patients and their families because I put myself in their situation.

“If that happened to me or my family, I would need someone in the hospital to support me. This is my mission: to make the patients and their parents or relatives happy.”

It is, according to Ms Abdulla, a role that requires her to be part hospital worker, part social worker and counsellor.

“All my time is with patients – the difficult cases, the chronic cases,” she said. “Maybe they will be angry and shout, but you have to put yourself in their position.

“My job is to make their life easier, to oversee the nurses, the machines, the beds. But first, it is to support the parents, to explain what has happened to their relative, to their child.”

Ms Abdulla works with the medical team and families to decide if a patient can be discharged to a home or to make patients comfortable if they face a life on ventilator-reliant care because their illnesses.

For expatriate patients, this can mean trying to get them back to their families in their home countries. For local families, Ms Abdulla compiles a plan that best suits patients’ everyday long-term care.

It is a tough and sometimes emotionally-wearing job, but Ms Abdulla says the rewards are evident, and would like to see more Emirati women enter the healthcare sector.

For now, she remains an “unsung hero”, an accolade bestowed by many of her colleagues and those whose relatives she helps to care for.

Dr Arif Faquih, the hospital’s neonatologist and acting head of the neonatology department, said Ms Abdulla’s job isn’t just work, it is a calling – and her personality allows her to relate to parents and family members during troubling times.

“She has passion and understanding,” he said. “She realises it is how difficult for them.

“What she does is a very difficult task and she is never bound by time.”

newsdesk@thenational.ae

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Source: uae news

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