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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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Today will be particularly painful for nurses in Antigua and Barbuda as they prepare to line Friars Hill Road in uniform in support of their fallen colleague Cynthia Byers who died of Covid-19 on Monday.

There will be no traditional funeral service or viewing of the body due to the circumstances of Byers’ death. Instead her family will hold a private gathering in her honour, after which she will be buried.

The funeral procession will leave Barnes Funeral Home at around 9.45am Thursday and all nurses are asked to be in position by 9.30am.

Nurses are expected to wear their full white uniform, and maintain social distancing and other safety measures. 

Since Byers’ tragic death, tributes have been pouring out from a wide section of the medical fraternity and the general public.

Byers was a graduate of the Antigua State College School of Nursing. After completing general nursing training in 2000 to 2004, she pursued and successfully completed the post-basic midwifery nursing education and training in 2007 to 2008 to become a nurse midwife.

Nurse Byers worked for a number of years as a staff nurse at Holberton Hospital and subsequently at the Mount St John’s Medical Centre in various clinical settings, most notable of which was at the ICU which was by far her longest rotation, following which she was seconded to work with the Barbuda Council in the position of Matron of the Hannah Thomas Hospital in 2014.

In 2017, Nurse Byers’ secondment with the Barbuda Council was terminated and she returned to the mainland and employment with central government in the position of Deputy Matron of the Fiennes Institute.

Her last assignment was Acting Matron of Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, which she began just days before her passing.

Principal Nursing Officer Margaret Smith described Byers as a “dedicated worker who loved her profession dearly”.

“Nurse Byers was a team player and was always willing to help. I recall that at the beginning of the pandemic when it was determined that there was a need to establish a port health unit at our ports of entry, she was one of the very few nurses who volunteered to provide support at the airport,” Smith recalled.

She continued that she used to worry about Byers’ safety on her long drive home after late night shifts screening passengers at the airport.

“But she never complained. I will always remember her amazing sacrifice at a time when it was so badly needed. She continued to provide support for port health up to the time of her passing. She will be greatly missed.”

Smith added, “Every Covid-19 death is a tragedy, and to lose one of our own is even more poignant.”