Meet Sean Thum. He is a medical officer from Johor.
He was asked to join the front line staff to help them in their fight against the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) situation in the country. The medical officer, who is fondly referred as Dr Sean by his peers, says he received a call on Friday afternoon, 13 March, during which he was requested for his services immediately.
He was ready despite only having two hours to prepare before his reporting time at 5pm.
"I felt I was ready to serve my country. #DemiMalaysia. Mum cooked fried rice and I wolfed it down, and then I was on my way to Hospital Permai," he wrote on his Instagram.
Dr Sean clarified that he has been aware since the past two weeks about his name being included in a list of medical officers to handle the COVID-19 situation at Hospital Permai in Johor.
Taking to social media, he says he has been "ready to serve" his country ever since he was informed about the front line deployment
According to his colleague, Dr Sean "looked excited" when he was told about being called up for duty.
"I was," he admitted, adding that it was, after all, national service.
He said that upon his arrival at the hospital, he was joined by Brigette and Edward from Hospital Sultan Ismail (HSI). Together, they underwent a quick orientation session before starting work.
"The three of us were in charge of screening patients, which include obtaining the history, performing a thorough physical examination of the patient, checking vital signs, taking throat swabs, nose swabs, and a blood sample, and also making a decision on whether the patient required admission," he said, adding that they would consult with the infectious diseases specialist on duty before admitting anyone.
"We also had to register the patients' names into the disease notification system so that we, and our colleagues doing contact tracing, would be able to locate the said patients."
While the routine procedures were completed rather quickly, the Johorean noted that the strict environmental conditions that are in place for the front line staff did complicate the data collection process
"All staff had to put on their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) prior to contact with the patients. It was a tedious process which had strict rules that we had to observe. These rules are made so that our healthcare professionals don't get infected," he said, adding that they adhered to the process "religiously".
According to him, there were layers after layers of the stuff to put on and that everything was to be done in the right sequence, which would eventually put them in a spacesuit-like situation.
Describing the spacesuit-like situation, Dr Sean said being inside the PPE was "warm and stuffy" and that when worn correctly, the individual doesn't feel the movement of air around them.
"The suit is tight on you, limiting your movement. The N95 mask fits tightly to your jaw, trapping your heat, and moisture in that region. Breathing could get a little difficult, especially because you are basically breathing in your own exhale. Two hours later I emerged drenched in my sweat," he wrote.
"It was as if I had a personal sauna session while I carried out my duty. Bear in mind I was working at 8pm in the evening. Imagine what my colleagues who worked in the afternoon had to go through," he added.
Dr Sean said that COVID-19, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), isn't going away so soon
Acknowledging the incredibly tough task undertaken by his colleagues who have been part of the efforts since day one of the country's responses to the outbreak — which started in the last week of January, he hopes to contribute whatever he can "as part of the front liners for the remainder of his shift".
"It is not easy, and I hope to contribute whatever I can as part of the front liners for the remainder of my shift at this hospital. We wish all Malaysians good health as we face this pandemic," he wrote.
While noting that the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually pass, he emphasised on the need of the hour that requires everyone to work together to overcome the challenges the virus will throw at us.
"Remember, the virus does not discriminate on who it infects. Let's work hand in hand, together."
In the meantime, he advised everyone to practice good hand hygiene and asked to report to the healthcare services/authorities if you:
- Have symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing
- Had close contact with a patient tested positive for COVID-19, or
- Had visited a region which was reported to have an outbreak
Last week, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Unit at Hospital Serdang highlighted the work that goes on in screening tents to remind people of the front line staff dealing with the added stress: