To seek, save and serve in COVID-19 fight

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15 Jun 2020 | PEOPLE

To seek, save and serve in COVID-19 fight

Not your usual In-Camp Training (ICT): Military Expert (ME) 4A (NS) Muhammad Nurhafiz Bin Juma’at, 32, shares his story as a front-liner in the battle against COVID-19. A Nursing Officer in 8th Combat Support Hospital (8 CSH), he was deployed alongside his fellow servicemen to take care of patients at the Singapore Expo Community Care Facility (CCF).

// Photos courtesy of ME4A (NS) Nurhafiz & SAF Medical Corps

ME4A (NS) Nurhafiz (in yellow Personal Protective Equipment) taking a patient’s blood pressure inside the red zone (where patients reside) of the Expo CCF.

Answering the call of duty

I was motivated by my Commanding Officer - Lieutenant Colonel (NS) (Dr) Bernard Lim - who encouraged us to be part of this operation (at the Singapore Expo CCF) during our ICT as part of the national effort to fight COVID-19.

My other commanders and fellow NSmen (Operationally Ready National Servicemen) rallied to the call despite knowing the risk involved.

I'm the Manager of the Emergency Life Support Department in HMI-Institute of Health Sciences, and my bosses - Mr Tee Soo Kong, Executive Director and Mr David Tay, Director Training and Development, who were formerly senior officers from the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) Medical Training Institute - were also very supportive about my ICT. My colleague, PTE (NS) Soh Zi Wei, who is also from 8 CSH, was a part of this deployment to the Expo as well.

ME4A (NS) Nurhafiz (top right, second from right) “visiting” his family during Hari Raya through a Zoom video call.

A different Hari Raya this year

The usual visiting of family members and relatives with great food was not an option this year. Our ICT period was from 26 May to 14 Jun, and I was missing the Ramadhan festive mood as my deployment happened in the first week of Hari Raya.

But I wanted to serve a greater calling. The sacrifice was worth it as it was not only for our loved ones and nation, but also to care for the migrant workers who are in need of our medical care and support during this crucial period.

Family - my support & inspiration

My parents are my role models, and motivated me to be part of this operation.

My dad, ME4 (Ret) Juma'at, recently retired from the SAF after serving more than 35 years. He was a medic and I grew up inspired by his experiences in United Nations peacekeeping as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.

My mum, Mdm Suzana, was a nurse during the SARS period in 2003.

My other family members, relatives and friends were all very encouraging and inspired by me going to the front line. At the same time, they shared their concerns for me to be safe and to take care of myself throughout the operation.

ME4A (NS) Muhd Nurhafiz in the midst of donning his Personal Protective Equipment, which include a mask, eye protection, gown and gloves.

The fear is always there when you are fighting an invisible enemy. Of course, I don't want to bring this infection home to my loved ones.

We are constantly reminded of the importance of maintaining personal hygiene. Before the deployment, we went through refresher training on using resuscitation equipment, as well as mask fitting and proper Personal Protective Equipment procedures.

Precautions such as plastic partitions are put in place in the CCF dining area to minimise any potential spread of the virus.

Before going home, it is compulsory for us to take a shower. At the gate, I will spray disinfectant on my shoes. Upon entering, I will change out of my clothes, wash them and take a second shower.

As a precaution, I had to minimise close interaction and not share meals with my wife. My meals were consumed using disposable plastic plates and utensils instead. She is a senior staff nurse working in a restructured hospital, so both of us understand the importance of these measures.

I stay in Punggol and my house is currently facing the S11 Dormitory. It serves as a reminder of how I can play a bigger role to help these migrant workers who have contributed so much to Singapore.

The medical team pulls 12-hour morning or night shifts durng their deployment.

A simple 'thanks' makes my day

I am proud to be deployed at the front lines and doing my part to serve a higher calling. As a Registered Nurse previously working in the Emergency Department in the National University Health System, I am able to use my skills to assess patients' conditions and triage (decide the order of treatment for) them.

Being a facilitator at HMI-Institute, I took the opportunity to impart my experiences and skills to my fellow medics. Seeing the patients recover from their symptoms, and their simple 'thank you' definitely makes my day.

Band of brothers: the servicemen of 8 CSH who stepped forward in the fight against COVID-19 at the Expo CCF.

The team is always vigilant and committed to respond to any emergency. On 30 May, we were attending to a patient in the sickbay who developed a sudden sharp pain over the right flank area (between the ribs and hip).

After escalating the case to our Medical Officer, he was administered intra-muscular analgesia but despite the painkiller, he was still groaning in pain.

We activated the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulance. It was raining heavily outside when I handed over the patient to the SCDF personnel. I really admire the work of all the front-liners who are doing their best during this period.

Contributing to the cause

I am thankful to the SAF, 8 CSH, my family and workplace for allowing me to contribute my skills for this operation.

At the end of the day, I feel satisfied to be contributing to a greater cause. One thing I'll always remember about being a part of this deployment is how all of us contributed in our own little way to combat this difficult phase together.

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