Born and brought up in Toronto, Dr. Nasheena Jiwa is a physician currently pursuing a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center. She is involved in academics as a part of her fellowship program and has also obtained an appointment as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine at UConn Health. She currently lives in the Hartford area in Connecticut and attends Westport Jamatkhana.
As a pulmonary and critical care fellow, her role has been dynamic based on where there is a need. Dr. Jiwa is involved with COVID-19 patients in the critical care unit, as well as in other departments, where she provides physicians with additional guidance on the treatment of relatively stable patients. At her institution, like most others, there has been an immense need for help on the weekends in the COVID intensive care units (ICU). Dr. Jiwa has been voluntarily helping out these units since the crisis first started and has yet to take a full day off in over a month.
In her many encounters with these patients, one of her biggest concerns is the feeling of loneliness that COVID patients are consistently experiencing. “I can only imagine they feel incredibly alone as they cannot see their families due to visitor restrictions, and they only see their nurses and doctors dressed head-to-toe in personal protective equipment,” she recalls. She remembers one of her patients who always waved at her through the glass door of the ICU and gave her a thumbs up that she felt fine.
While the rationing of personal protective equipment and the potential of carrying this risk of exposure to her family has always been an ongoing concern for her, she feels incredibly blessed to have the support of her family, friends, and the Jamat during these trying times. “I personally experienced so much support and kind gestures from friends I honestly didn't even expect. I even got calls from members of Jamatkhana to check in to make sure everything was OK. I was so touched by these gestures and grateful for having these people in my life.”
As Dr. Jiwa saw patients across the entire spectrum of this disease, she came to realize that this virus does not discriminate, that we are all susceptible to becoming sick, revealing the inevitable mortality we all share as humans. For her, a key lesson learned is to never take your health for granted, to take care of yourself, your family, and to stay healthy. Her priorities will always be her family, health, and faith. “These are the pillars to get us through difficult and trying times.”
Dr. Jiwa emphasizes that this pandemic has not only taught us to unite together in times of uncertainty but also a lot about our health care systems and the need for improvements in certain areas in the times of a crisis. “I think this will still be an ongoing learning experience as we deal with the eventual aftermath of being confronted with the losses of loved ones, and how to recover emotionally, financially, and spiritually from this.”
Her message to the fellow healthcare workers in the Jamat is, “Your safety is of utmost importance. As a front-liner, you are not expendable. Your skill set, your knowledge, and your abilities are too valuable during this time of great need. Also, take time to unwind, decompress, and debrief to not burn yourself out.”