Hamdi Abdirahman Ahmed has spoken about her experiences as a doctor treating Coronavirus patients at a Mogadishu hospital at the start of the outbreak – and coping with catching the virus herself.
In an interview with Radio Ergo, Dr Hamdi, 25, described her excitement to help with the national effort at Martini Hospital when the first patient was identified in early March, and being among the first doctors to register to join the team.
She had been working at Martini hospital since October 2019. When the hospital became a dedicated treatment centre for COVID19 patients, Hamdi decided to move in as a resident doctor to provide intensive care for the those isolated at the hospital.
Hamdi’s parents gave her their blessing. It was a huge opportunity as well as a challenge for the newly qualified young doctor.
“I’d never been away from home for that long, it was difficult, but I felt at home, helping elderly patients who were just like my parents and grandparents,” she said.
It was challenging becoming a frontline health worker as the hospital team faced the previously unknown disease. She did not worry particularly about the risks as the felt so committed to helping others.
“I was helping patients who were quarantined, so I’d talk to them and make them feel comfortable and less isolated,” she said.
“I used to encourage them and, if possible, take them outside to get fresh air. I also kept track of their medications and make sure that they took them as required.”
But on 20 May 2020, Hamdi herself was confirmed positive for COVID19. She had felt a headache and aches in other parts of her body and suspected she had caught the virus. She went to the laboratory at the hospital that day and the result was confirmed.
She had to isolate herself at the hospital for two weeks, taking paracetamol and vitamins. “It was not good being alone in a room, it was psychologically stressful, but I kept reading books and entertaining myself,” she said.
The worst part of the experience was the reactions of others including friends and acquaintances.
“People were telling everyone that I was in quarantine and stigmatising me. I never felt bad about being infected by the virus though because I knew I was doing something good through my work,” Hamdi stated.
She made a full recovery, and on 4 June she tested negative and was able to go back to work.
“I felt determined to help my patients whom I saw as family,” she said.
The connections she made with patients made her feel more comfortable during a long residency at the hospital, but she was still missing her family. She finally went home on 24 June for a week’s break.
“When I finally came home, my parents and siblings were ecstatic. We were apart for three full months, so we were all so happy to be back together again,” she said.
Dr Hamdi Abdirahman graduated from high school in 2012 and graduated from the University of Somalia in medicine in 2019.
She had dreamed of being a doctor since she was a child and says she is happy that her dream came true to be practising in Somalia. She returned to work at Martini hospital on 1 July.