JEDDAH: Dr. Hanan Al-Turkistani, head of the infectious diseases unit and COVID-19 team at King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah, drew much assurance and assistance from her colleagues as they struggled with the severity of the virus.
A graduate of King Abdulaziz University, Dr. Al-Turkistani received her certification from the Saudi Board of Internal Medicine in 2013, followed by a fellowship program in the Kingdom. She later acquired her second fellowship at the University of Toronto, Canada, in transplant infectious diseases in 2018, before returning to the Kingdom as a consultant.
“Nobody knew what was going on and how we were going to approach the pandemic,” Dr. Al-Turkistani said. “It wasn’t very clear. With time, of course, we got familiarized with the disease, and things became clearer, but it’s still very hectic.”
“It never got easy; as a healthcare provider, you’re responsible for everyone’s safety, colleagues, family and patients,” she said.
The responsibility was more than just a question of people’s safety. Doctors were also responsible for sharing information, educating people and sharing guidelines, helping others understand the disease and reassuring them. There’s more to it than meets the eye.
“I was a head-of-section in the infectious diseases unit during the lockdown, so I had to do a lot of administrative work, attending many meetings as we tried our best to stay focused (to diminish stress) and shared our fears, anxieties and ideas. This, for me, was the most helpful thing to cope with stress.”
“My colleagues and I are proud that God chose us to be physicians who could help at the height of the problem in Saudi. We honestly matured through this experience, and we learned a lot. In the future if, God forbid, we go through another pandemic, we all would have a different approach, but we’ll be ready to face whatever difficulty comes our way.”