'I am not scared'

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'I am not scared'

Nurse O'Reilly confident Jamaica can beat COVID-19

BY ANIKA RICHARDS
Associate editor — news and health
richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, May 18, 2020

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Nurse Charmaine O'Reilly says that working on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) does not make her jittery.


“Sometimes I pinch myself and say, 'Are you alive?', because I am not feeling the butterflies for COVID-19. I am not scared,” said O'Reilly, who is part of the hospital's 24-hour response team at the department.

“When we were preparing for Ebola, and I was part of the preparation, I was scared. [For] H1N1, I went away to study in South Korea. When I came back, before I started all my teaching in health informatics, I was worried [while] working on the H1N1 ward. But for COVID-19, I am not sure why, I don't start getting any butterflies,” she said, as she recounted her experiences in other health crises.

However, O'Reilly, who is also the hospital's in-service education officer, admitted to the Jamaica Observer that the only time she gets nervous is while teaching her fellow front line workers the proper way to don and doff personal protective equipment.

Her main concern, she said, is whether her colleagues are grasping the right techniques to protect themselves from the virus, which has so far infected more than 4.6 million people worldwide and claimed the lives of more than 310,000.

“I feel the butterflies when I go into the classroom, because my thing is that I hope they are getting the message so we can save ourselves,” the nurse, who has a master's degree in education, disclosed.

“In delivering my message, that is where I get the butterflies. I say, 'Boy, did I lose anybody? Do they really understand the importance of pulling the hand out of the gown, instead of taking it away from the hand?' ” she said, explaining that when the hand is pulled out of the gown, it is turned rightside in, so if there is organism on the gown there is no contact with it.

“So those are things that I worry about: How you take off that gown; how you take off that mask not knowing if you are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic… those are the things that give me the chills now — us not doing the right things to protect ourselves,” O'Reilly told the Observer.

O'Reilly has been serving in the capacity of in-service education officer at KPH, the largest facility of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, for nine years. While she mainly trains nursing personnel, in times of crisis she is expected to train all staff members.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak locally, Nurse O'Reilly said she has provided training in proper hand hygiene and the donning and doffing of personal protective equipment to more than 800 staff members, including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, porters, janitors, and ambulance drivers.

The nurse, who has to put her own lessons into practice when attending to patients in the A&E, is confident the country can beat COVID-19.

“I know if I go to the bathroom and wash my hands or I sanitise my hands, and I wear my mask, I am fairly safe,” she said, pointing out that she is not saying she is immune to COVID-19, but, “I am confident that if we follow the steps, the risks decrease tremendously.”

“I honestly believe we can beat COVID-19 because we started right. My friends that live in the United States that have left Jamaica, working as nurses, they are not privileged like us. Nobody has gone through donning and doffing with them, nobody has given them an overview of COVID-19, nobody has gone through hand hygiene. I just think that we all can save ourselves,” she said.

Since the first case of the infectious virus was confirmed on the island on March 10, Jamaica, up to last Saturday, has recorded 517 cases with nine deaths and 121 recoveries.


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