I am a nursing officer. I want to share the 28 years of my journey as a nurse with you. I have always desired to be a nurse. After all these years of service, I have a feeling that I am at the edge of the horizon and that my journey is coming to an end. It’s not a big deal to be a nurse but becoming a nurse and working to make ends meet is an invaluable experience. If you ask what is nursing, I should answer that it is the pure submission of oneself in service of others. It humbles you, teaches you patience and self-control. It helps you build relationships and teaches you to cherish it with love and care. My profession has been a very important part of my life and I believe that each day, God holds my hand and leads me through.

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Back in the days when I was a young nurse, I worked in a community health centre. Once, a pregnant patient was ref­erred to the district hospital and I was on duty while moving her. The journey was to take about eight hours by boat. The patient was diagnosed as “labour with breach presentation”. I was provided with a labour kit. By the time we were on board, the weather took a harsh turn. Buffeted by high winds, the boat shook hard to the right, then towards left. It was impossible to stay still. Other passengers on board were reeling all around, feeling dizzy, being sick. I had to look after myself and save two other lives. After six hours, the patient started having labour pain. The captain gave us a tiny room with very little lighting where I was supposed to conduct the delivery. Fortunately, a lady on board volunteered to help out. An hour before we reached the destination, the delivery had been done. The baby was in my hands. There was no piercing cry. No signs of respiration or movement. The baby was underweight. I immediately injected the drug through the umbilical cord of the baby. I had done seemingly everything I could. Around five minutes later, the baby let out her loudest cry. Mother and baby were safe as we reached port, and were handed over safely to the hospital OPD. It was a life-changing experience for me. I watched the mother as she carried her baby and it meant something to me. I don’t exactly know what, but I have this little memory stowed away in my heart. I’ve never felt more confident ever since.

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The privilege of holding a dying person’s hand and that of a newborn I count as a blessing.

There are some days when I look back and feel deeply contented; at the same time there are miserable memories. I remember the days of a cholera outbreak when I was posted in another community health centre in Nicobar district. It had 10 sub-centres on different islands. I was on duty and our job involved going to these islands, providing treatment and transporting patients in dinghies. The days when transit is unavailable we spent the night on the beach under the sky. It was like being in an adventure trip that wouldn’t end.

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I sometimes think that if I had been in a different profession, I would have had more time to spend with my family. But I have no regrets. When I recall the days of early motherhood, I also rem­ember learning something important. For a married nurse, it is vital to have an understanding spouse. When on night shifts, my husband would take care of my infant children. These are some of the sacrifices I made for my profession.

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Somebody asked me once, when you could have chosen something else, maybe something more, why nursing? I look back at this question and have only one thought. The privilege of holding someone’s hands while they’re dying and also a hand of a baby being born is something that I count as a blessing. I would skip any job interview to have experienced those moments again and again. During these desperate times of the COVID-19 outbreak, people should understand that the true meaning of love, care and support is eternally linked to that of being a nurse.

—As told to Salik Ahmad

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