An ode to our dedicated nurses

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At this very special time of year when nurses are celebrated all over the world, we here at NEWSCO wish to salute our nurses, extending our greatest appreciation for the wonderful work that they do. Theirs is a life of selflessness. Theirs is a life of sacrifice. Theirs is a profession in which they often go above and beyond the call of duty, with a remuneration that hardly equals the enormity of their work.  In other words, nurses are grossly underpaid, and the benefits that accrue to them, fall far short of what they are worth. Nonetheless, they persevere, tending to the wounded, administering medication, offering words of comfort and encouragement to those in physical distress and despair. Our nurses are doing God’s work.  It is a high calling.

Of course, Florence Nightingale, the acknowledged pioneer of modern nursing, who distinguished herself as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, must be proud! She can rest easy.

These past two years were heart-wrenching ones for our nurses. They were at ground zero as patients suffering from Covid-19 struggled to breathe, many losing their sense of taste and becoming disoriented.  Some had to be put on respirators, and more than a few eventually succumbed to the deadly infection. Those were the days of fear and dread – our darkest hour. But mercifully, our nurses were manning the battlements. They courageously held the fort, and we can truly say, as did Sir Winston Churchill (a paraphrased version) of the British soldiers and all those involved in the heroic war effort against Nazi Germany, “Never in the field of human conflict, was so much owed to so few, by so many.” We owe our nurses an enormous debt of gratitude.

Quelle horreur, as the coronavirus raged, much like an insidious demon spawn, seeking whom it could devour. Alas! The bodies piling up. Talk of opening up a state-of-the-art hospital on Nugent Avenue . . . just in case. A refrigerated morgue on standby on the Holberton Hospital premises. Those afflicted with Covid-19, suffering and dying alone, away from family and friends on account of the deadly contagion. Many were summarily laid to rest, with little or no pomp and ceremony, again, away from all but the closest family members. These dreadful circumstances – the isolation, and the pain that those who were stricken must have suffered, made our grieving all the more unbearable. And every time that we heard the awful news from the health authorities – that another one of us had perished on account of the coronavirus and ‘pre-existing co-morbidities,’ a piece of us died. Indeed, as the bells tolled solemnly for the fallen, we could not help but think (as did John Donne in NO MAN IS AN ISLAND) that the bells were tolling for us as well.

But our nurses did not quit, never mind that it is not difficult to imagine that many must have pondered that very thought. After all, they are human. Indeed, some did consider leaving Antigua and Barbuda for greener, more lucrative nursing pastures abroad – pastures with more protections, and benefits and guarantees.  Nevertheless, for the most part, our nurses dutifully stayed put. They showed up for work, and much like the aforementioned Florence Nightingale, they fearlessly went from bed to bed, putting in long, lonely hours, attending to the needs of the sick, unheralded and unsung! These are some of the valiant heroes of our existential fight against the demon coronavirus! Long may their legend live!

Of course, they deserve to be handsomely rewarded with a decent hike in their wages, never mind that we perhaps cannot afford to adequately compensate them. But try, we must. And let us never take them for granted!

In that regard, we say a heartfelt ‘Thank you!’ to our nurses, and wish them an enjoyable and successful NURSES WEEK 2022. May they never be weary in well-doing!

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