Nurses with 80 years of experience to be celebrated
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Cape Town - As International Nurses’ Day approaches on May 12, two nurses who have made a remarkable contribution to the industry, with 80 years of experience combined, are being celebrated.
The Weekend Argus sat down with the two senior nurses who began their journey on May 1, 1980.
According to the head of nursing at Groote Schuur Hospital, Aghmat Mohamed, Nurses Day was initial celebrated in January 1974, before it was later changed to May 12 in honour of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
“It is a day to acknowledge our nurses for what they do for our patients, their families and our communities daily.
“The day is also used to remind the public of the very important role nurses play in any health system. Without Nurses who are the heartbeat of any health-care system there will be no healthcare system,” said Mohamed.
Sister Jennifer Abrahams, 59, the operational manager at cardio thoracic surgery and the heart and lung transplant clinic, began her journey on May 1, 1980.
Today, she is part of a panel of professors and doctors and nurses who travelled around the world to help establish heart and lung transplant clinics.
She also assisted in some of the first heart and lung transplants.
As a child growing up in Pretoria, Abrahams developed a passion to help those in need of medical care.
“I used to help a neighbour who was an old lady to change her dressings and I later joined St John Ambulance.
“My father wanted me to become a teacher but my passion was in nursing. I said to my two daughters, I am near my retirement age but if I could, I would do it all over again.
“I was amazed by Dr Christiaan Barnard who did the first heart (transplant in) 1967.
“I remember having a German patient who had a heart and lung transplant and the media was there. I was given the task to care for her. That shift, night shift, I sat next to her bedside and I didn’t even use the toilet until my shift was done. The patient's life was in my hands and this is why I love my job because you do your best to serve others,” she said.
Abrahams, who has been in the cardio thoracic surgery for 36 years was given opportunities to assist staff at hospitals in Namibia and Egypt.
She continues to educate staff.
“I always tell people the machines like in ICU, they are speaking to you. So when the person’s blood pressure is high, what is the body telling you? You need to determine what is happening and solve it and hand this information over to the doctor or professor to assist with their diagnosis.”
During the first wave of Covid-19, Abrahams began self-isolating at her home to protect her family and had not returned to work.
“I remember seeing PPE (personal protective equipment) for the first time in the hospital and the fears we all had, we are now better prepared, that time it was the fear of the unknown,” said Abrahams.
“I remember coming into a ward, and seeing the curtain drawn and I asked why it closed and they said the patient had died.
“The patient had died, I had to sit back and realise this is it. Then in June, we lost 28 patients,” she said.
Sister Vivienne Oliver, 59, also has many hats.
She is the operational manager at the ophthalmologist theatre and ENT (ear, nose and throat) since 2013 and has been in nursing since May 1, 1980.
She is also the chairperson of the Sonneblom Neighbourhood Watch and a peace officer. She had previously been part of the Athlone Community Policing Forum.
Oliver and her husband, who suffered a stroke, survived Covid-19 earlier this year.
“I have a passion for people and I even work in my community,” she said.
“The magical part of my job is helping people who have issues with their eyes. I remember having a young patient and we removed the cataract from her eyes.
“When we took the bandages off from her eyes, I remember how she cried and was singing God’s praises.
“It left us all in tears in the ward.”