Oct 31, 2021 News
“When I tested positive, I was angry at myself, knowing that as a frontline worker I usually take all these precautions but still contracted COVID-19. That in a sense tells us that COVID-19 can attack us at any time, and I like to use myself as an example from time to time.”
By Romario Blair
Kaieteur News – “You have to love your job and one of the important things is patience…if we don’t love what we do, we cannot be successful.” Those are the words of Ramona Thomas, a midwife who has been functioning out of the public health system for the past 18 years.
Like so many other frontline workers, Ms. Thomas has brought her wealth of experience to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. She has worked for most of her years in the Amerindian communities within the Pomeroon/Supenaam region. Unfortunately, several of these Region Two communities are now COVID-19 hotspots.
Over the years, Thomas was able to gradually build her career from a Community Health Worker to a cluster supervisor who now overlooks four health centres within her region.
The 44-year-old Thomas originated from the indigenous community of Bethany, which is located within the Supenaam Creek. She revealed that she came from humble beginnings; a life which she says shaped her vision for the future. “I grew up in a big family…I had seven brothers and three sisters; I was the third in the family. I would laugh and tell everyone…even patients would ask me why I’m so happy, contented, and I would tell them that I grew up in a poor family.”
She said that she grew up wanting a different life for herself in the future. She revealed, “I wanted my own job, a decent husband, and not too many kids. I was always an ‘A’ student at school. I had lots of challenges; people treat you anyhow because we use to go to school bare feet, books in plastic bag. Other kids have the fancy things, but I was bright.” Today Thomas has a family of her own – her husband is Floyd Thomas and they share three children.
In the year 2002, she began her career in the medical field with a six months training course. According to her, the challenges were immediate, as she sacrificed precious time with her family in pursuit of training which was done in Moruca, Region One.
“The first challenge is that I had to leave my family, I had all three of my kids at that time – the youngest was just three years, nine months, the second child was five years old, and the eldest was nine years old,” Thomas shared. She recalled too that communication posed an immense challenge, as it was difficult to keep in touch with her young family during her training.
She added, “It was hard, because at times I was there physically to get my training done, but mentally I was back home wondering how things were going, and in those days we hadn’t much access to phones, so every month I would write letters, and try to find out how the kids were and so…and I was visited twice by my husband.”
Upon completing her training, Thomas was first assigned to Kabakaburi, and also served St. Monica, both of which are indigenous communities in the Lower Pomeroon. She explained that her role in the health care system was pivotal at that point in time, as access to quality healthcare was and remains a challenge in remote locations.
“Health care is an issue in these remote Amerindian communities, because of the distance and the transportation, because most of these communities are riverine, lake areas and people don’t have boats, don’t have engines…sometimes they have to depend on someone to give them a drop out in case of a medical emergency. Sometimes for health care workers to get supplies it can also be challenging at times,” Thomas related.
She said that her time within these communities had certainly bore fruit, since she undoubtedly provided a life-saving service, at the best of her ability. Reflecting Thomas said, “When you’re in health care delivery in the interior there are multiple roles you have to fulfill…there was an issue this one time where a nine-year-old boy had chopped his index finger, and was in tremendous pain…the top of the finger was already turning blue, it was in a really bad shape.”
She recalled that “a neighbour brought the boy to the health post, and my advice was that he see a doctor, but because of transportation and the pain he was in, they begged that I amputate the damaged piece of finger…so because I worked with an experience medex in the past, I followed her procedure and numb the finger…took off the blue piece and pulled skin over it.”
In 2010, Thomas decided that it was time to advance her career and so she opted to be trained in the specialty area of Midwifery at the Georgetown School of Nursing. Thomas revealed that unlike her initial training back in 2002, there were minimal challenges during her training in Georgetown.
According to Thomas, her love for Midwifery was cultivated almost two decades ago, following a personal experience of hers. She intimated, “I always wanted to be a midwife, because when I was pregnant with my children, I don’t think much care was given to me when I went to the hospital to be delivered. I don’t think they were nice, but now that I’m in their position I always try to ensure that mothers and babies are taken care of.”
She added, “It takes a lot of patience, but you have to love your job, as a midwife if we don’t love what we do, we cannot be successful, people will leave with a lot of negative things. A mother must remember that during her labour there was this nurse that really tried with her.”
Dealing with COVID-19
Thomas admitted that when word of COVID-19 initially got out, she had doubts that Guyana would’ve been one of the affected countries. When Guyana recorded its first case, however, her outlook on matters changed. “When this pandemic started, I had a little doubt… but every night I was checking the world news, and I kept questioning myself whether we have this thing in Guyana,” she recalled.
According to Thomas too, “when they started doing testing, that was a bit scary, and when the virus came to Bethany that was one of the biggest fears I’ve had because after I did the test, I was positive, and the community had 32 cases.”
As of recent, COVID-19 cases have been on the increase in Region Two with primarily indigenous communities being hotspots. Thomas is worried that there are still some persons around who, to this day, are convinced that COVID-19 is not real or that the vaccines are safe. She shared, “when I tested positive, I was angry at myself, knowing that as a frontline worker I usually take all these precautions but still contracted COVID-19. That in a sense tells us that COVID-19 can attack us at any time, and I like to use myself as an example from time to time.”
She believes that community leaders need to do more in leading the fight against COVID-19. Moreover, our featured frontline healthcare worker noted, “I can come into your community, and I can be talking my lungs out, but people can always say that I’m talking because I’m working for the government…that’s why we need the Toshaos and other community leaders to come on board.”
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