Coronavirus in KuwaitKuwait

Lab technicians, first responders face high risk in COVID-19 fight

Kuwaiti healthy ministry workers scan expatriates living in Kuwait who returned from Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, as they arrive to a specified place to be tested for coronavirus in Kuwait City on March 12, 2020. — YASSER AL-ZAYYAT

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Medical technologist Richard, a frontliner in the testing of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is scared for his health and that of his family. But he is not complaining since it’s his job to be in service when called upon to perform his duty. He is married with two children. “I always pray and seek God’s protection. This is my bread and butter for the last 28 years and I can’t complain about it. But at the back of my head, I am scared and worried for my family. What if, God forbid, I contract the virus – I can probably transmit it to my family, whom I dearly love. I don’t want them to have such a deadly disease,” he said.

Laboratory testing is done along with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Normally, the coronavirus will be detected in the PCR, but doctors will also use some alternative means to re-confirm the presence of the virus by testing blood samples. Richard showed Kuwait Times documents of several people who tested positive for COVID-19 or HIV. “This and more is part of my job as a microbiologist. I test blood, even urine and stool samples,” he explained. “So I am handling the blood of patients with suspected coronavirus or other viruses, and some of them indeed have coronavirus in their blood samples.”

According to Richard, knowing the job well coupled with strictly following standard operating procedure by the laboratory, plus some extra precautions and prayers can save him from any disease. In order to protect his family, he religiously follows the measures advised by his laboratory. “We wear disposable lab shoes and suits when conducting tests. We cannot leave the lab area wearing them – we are sprayed with sanitizers. We have an area in which to remove and wear safety gear,” he said.

“I normally wear regular clothes underneath, which I change when arriving home. I do not take my shoes inside the house. I directly go to the bathroom, wash my body with soap and warm water, followed by hand hygiene. That is my routine now – I am taking extra precautions in the face of the coronavirus. My dirty clothes are washed with hot water,” Richard added.

Being on the frontline, an ambulance nurse named Ruel also shared his experience in handling patients with coronavirus. “We handle all calls from the quarantine site to the hospital. We cannot complain because this is part of our job. So we are ready at all times, handling whatever cases are given to us,” he said. “From the quarantine site we transfer confirmed cases to hospital.

I personally accompany the patients. Of course I am scared, but this is part of our job as registered nurses. We follow the protocols given by the ministry of health, and practice proper hygiene in all situations to lessen our chances of being contaminated with the virus,” he said.

“Yesterday, I was dispatched to respond to an emergency call in Mahboula. I was told it was a patient with some medical issues, but when I reached the scene, police were there and informed me that the patient is suspected to be infected with the coronavirus. They told me to see the patient, but I declined because I wasn’t wearing proper protective gear. So I called another ambulance to respond. We have a particular ambulance intended for coronavirus patients,” Ruel said. All identities have been changed to protect the respondents.

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