Dubai nurse who used Toyota Yaris as ambulance in pandemic up for $250,000 prize

Jasmine Mohammed Sharaf was nominated for her dedication to patients

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A nurse in Dubai, who went above and beyond the call of duty at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, has been nominated for a $250,000 (Dh981,500) award.

Indian mum-of-two Jasmine Mohammed Sharaf was picked from an international list of almost 24,000 nominees to be in with a chance of winning the Aster Guardian Global Nursing Award.

As one of 10 finalists, a selection panel will judge her voluntary work outside her nursing job.

Ms Sharaf, who is the sole provider for her family after her husband lost his job during the pandemic, visited low-income workers to deliver food, personal protective equipment, and completed health checks in the homes of those isolating or unable to attend hospitals.

The 42-year-old even used her Toyota Yaris as a makeshift ambulance, taking patients into hospitals for check-ups to reduce the strain on emergency services.

What is even more remarkable is that Ms Sharaf has diabetes and asthma, leaving her exposed to a severe Covid infection in the first few months of the pandemic before vaccinations offered widespread protection.

“At the start of the pandemic, many patients were scared and worried about what was happening,” she said.

“We could not accommodate everyone at the health centre and other patients were afraid to go to hospital because of Covid.

“My role changed to going out into the community, particularly to help low-income workers.

“The Dubai Health Authority was giving amazing services to people who had Covid, but communication was really important at that time.

“I told people not to worry, and gave my number out so they could call me if they needed anything.”

Ms Sharaf, who has been in the UAE for 19 years, works at the Al Khawaneej Health Centre and lives in Sharjah with her husband.

Her son is a 20-year-old medical student and her daughter is aged 9.

Hospital shifts would generally finish at 3pm, but rather than go home, Ms Sharaf would venture out into communities around Sharjah, Deira, Rashidiya and Al Quoz to help deliver on-the-ground care and pandemic updates.

Many communities were in lockdown, but her role as a frontline health worker allowed her to travel freely around the city.

Ms Sharaf carried an oximeter with her to do Covid checks on people showing symptoms, then took them into hospital in her own car. She visited multiple houses to check on reported cases and helped people isolate to reduce the risk of infecting others.

“Many people lost their jobs or had little money, but needed to go to hospital,” she said.

“I tried to help as many as possible by giving them lifts. I set up a Whatsapp group so people could get hold of me easily, whenever they needed.

“For a few months, my husband helped to cook up some meal packs with chicken and rice to give to people in these communities who had lost their work.

“My family were worried as I had no vaccine, and I also had my own health conditions to deal with. I reassured them that it was the right thing to do.”

In September 2020, Ms Sharaf caught Covid and was admitted to hospital for two weeks, but that experience did not deter her from doing the job she loves.

She is one of 10 international finalists, who come from India, the UK, America, Kenya, Australia and Afghanistan.

Her colleagues and friends put her name forward for the award.

Although she has shrugged off thoughts of winning, the $250,000 prize would be life-changing and help support her children’s education.

“I have some loans to repay and my husband lost his job as a limo driver, so it has been difficult for us,” she said.

“I want to give some money to poorer people who need it more than me, but also support my family.”

Nurses were selected from more than 24,000 who applied from 184 countries.

Finalists were selected by a stringent review process run independently by consultants Ernst and Young and a jury.

Applications were evaluated to create a shortlist of 181, which was whittled down to 41. The top-10 finalists were then announced.

Nominees were asked to enter based on four areas of contribution: leadership, research and innovation, and patient care and community service.

The winner will be announced on May 12, which is also International Nurses Day.

Dr Azad Moopen, managing director of Aster DM Healthcare, said the award was recognition of a challenging time for health workers.

“During this pandemic, their critical contribution with dedication and sacrifice, putting their own safety and lives at risk, was brought to the forefront globally,” he said.

“We thought that it appropriate to institute a global level award for the nurses to recognise the members of this noble profession."

Updated: April 27, 2022, 10:04 AM