My Ramadan: the dedicated doctor putting patients first in fight against Covid-19
Saad Al Ameri says being separated from family while he treats coronavirus patients means the holy month has a different feel this year
With his family kept at a distance for their own safety as he serves on the front line of the UAE's fight against Covid-19, this year's Ramadan will be like no other for Emirati doctor Saad Al Ameri.
Dr Al Ameri works tirelessly to protect lives at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, one of Abu Dhabi's leading medical facilities and a centre where coronavirus patients receive treatment.
Once he completes his gruelling 10-hour shift, he returns to an empty hotel room rather than going home to his loving wife and young daughter.
Dr Al Ameri, 28, barely finds a moment to break his fast, such are the intense demands on his time.
I was mentally prepared for all this but I miss my daughter and family so much
Dr Saad Al Ameri
He has not seen his daughter, Alsail, in about two months. When he speaks to her via video calls, the toddler kisses the phone screen.
"She is too young to understand. She keeps asking 'where is baba?'. When this is over, I am going to run to her as fast I can,” he said.
He said the outbreak meant the holy month felt very different this year.
“To be honest, it doesn’t feel like Ramadan at all. Ramadan, apart from being a holy month for prayer and being closer to God, is also about family," Dr Al Ameri said.
"Usually during Ramadan, you are always with your family and visiting each other and friends.
"It is about going to the mosque and praying and sitting down all together for a meal. Right now, Ramadan feels like every other day.”
While many people will sit down for iftar at about 7pm, Dr Al Ameri only has a proper meal after 11pm when he is back at his hotel room at the end of his shift.
The hospital’s staff have been offered paid-for hotel rooms to stay in so they can keep their families safe from the risk of infection.
“I moved into the hotel because it was too much of a risk to go home,” he said.
“This virus is highly infectious and I deal with Covid-19 patients every day at the hospital.”
Dr Al Ameri works from 1pm to 11pm. When it is time to break his fast, he is at the hospital.
“I will have some water and juice but that is it. There is no time to have a meal so I wait until I am back at the hotel," he said.
"Usually I'll just have that one main meal instead of waking up before dawn to eat again.”
During Ramadan last year, he was also on the late shift. “But we would get half an hour and could sit and eat and patients wouldn’t come at iftar time," he said.
“Now there is no time for that. We have to keep the patients moving. There are always patients and we cannot keep them waiting.
"Most importantly, before, at the end of the day I would go home and be with my family."
Fasting is also more challenging due to the protective gear healthcare workers need wear while treating Covid-19 patients.
“We wear the N95 masks for 12 hours and that, in addition to a hazmat suit, makes you feel very dehydrated regardless of whether you are fasting or not," Dr Al Ameri said.
"I usually go without food or water because I don’t want to change my personal protective equipment.
"I see the news and see how doctors and nurses around the world are suffering because of a lack of PPE’s. Everything is available for us here in the UAE but that makes me appreciate what I have more and not want to waste it.
"My PPE has become really precious to me, so I try to use one suit per shift.”
Dr Al Ameri has five brothers and four sisters. “Ramadan has a certain family atmosphere which is not there this year,” he said.
“This experience has taught me a lot. To be honest, I was mentally prepared for all this, but I miss my daughter and family so much.”
Updated: April 28, 2020 01:10 PM