Registered transgender nurse and midwife, Tiara Tuulua, will never forget dealing with pregnant women during the measles outbreak
The 33 year old who had been a registered nurse since 2009 added the measles epidemic as a second lifetime experience, of a natural disaster she was directly involved with.
" I had just become a registered nurse and was sent to Lalomanu when the tsunami struck to attend to the victims," she recalled the 20o9 tsunami on the south west coast of Upolu.
"When I went there I was very afraid because I wasn’t sure if my knowledge and skills to do the job or even deal with disasters were enough.
"However, being there and working during the emergency was how I was able to gain the experience of working during a disaster as well as an epidemic.
"The work experience during the measles cannot be compared to the tsunami except it was very sad seeing our own people dying in front of our eyes.
“I myself had a nephew who died from measles and it was difficult on the emotions seeing families mourn and grieve.”
Tuulua deliberately kept her emotions in check and stayed strong as demanded by her professional calling during the challenging environment of the epidemic.
She found the care of pregnant mothers especially the ones who had been tested positive for measles, very difficult to forget.
All who tested positive were kept isolated in one area to be cared for as well as for their newborn babies to be delivered.
"The process was normal for us as midwives who do that everyday, our only worry at the time was because it was an airborne disease and we were prone to infection.
" But thankfully God was always there and we were serving our people with so much love and a lot of respect.”
Tuulua found that the majority of the pregnant mothers who were brought in at the time were worried about their unborn child.
"Those mothers came in very anxious not just about themselves but especially worried about their babies.
"But the good thing was the support of their partners, families and midwives from New Zealand who all helped to calm their fears."
The 33 year old said the patients’ mental state also needed attention as well as the physical and they tried to calm them down and answered all their questions.
"They were worried about their unborn babies and so they started asking questions such as whether their babies are going to make it.
"Husbands and other family members were also concerned about the survival chances for the babies and were constantly asking for reassurances.
"We had to calm them down and tell them that everything will be ok, they just needed to have faith and pray for God's healing.
"It was hard for us because we didn’t know what was going to happen in the next second or so.
"We were dealing with unborn children.
"Another thing that really saddens me was the pain that these mother's had to go through not only from their pregnancy but also from the measles.
"They would be crying, had very high fever and some of them believed that it was some sort of demonic sickness.
“It’s the high fever that causes the minds to be somewhere else and acted up in a weird way.
"But we responded by giving them panadols as well other treatments required to keep them calm because they were not allowed to take any injection.
"And once we delivered baby, we ensure they get proper medical attention and we also had to treat the baby's mother to ensure they are both well."
Tuulua said the only thing that she is happy with is the fact that all mothers and their newborn babies recovered; nobody died from the measles.
Her workload was heavy but she managed to prioritise and balance her time with her two children and work during the outbreak.
The support of her family featured mainly in the care of her children.
"During the epidemic my job was my first priority because I knew that my children were safe, they had already done their immunization and my family were there to care for them.
"I had to put my children as my second priority but I would always go see them at home when my shift ended.
"When I get home I make sure I do everything I am supposed to do to ensure I don't transmit the virus and bacteria to my children
"I won't touch them until I finish showering and washed all my clothes."
Tuulua felt the sacrifice she had made during the epidemic was for the people and accepted it was kind of unfair to her two kids.
When the time is right, however, she plans to explain why they were left with their uncles and aunties.
"I would only go home to drop my washing and drop my kids stuff and their food then I would come back to the hospital.
“Every time I returned to work I get the same reaction; "are you leaving again?"
"My response would be yes, I was unfair to them but to me there was no need for me to look after them as they were well.
“I needed to be at the hospital where people needed help, as for my children God was with them and none had the measles."
Tuulua said she saw an united spirit in the Ministry of the staff coming together during the measles.
"At the hospital, starting from our CEO, to our management they came and visit all the divisions at the hospital, and asked if there was anything we needed.
“To me this was one of the best moments, it has never happened before. I saw they were around everyday asking and ensuring that all the resources that were needed were available so we were very happy to see everyone coming together.
"The team work was very nice.
"If one gets tired from working long hours then another nurse or doctor would fill in while that person gets a rest.
"Not only within the health but also the community; we were being fed, we were prayed upon, it encouraged us to keep on going; so it was actually a very nice thing it really did encouraged us.
"I know a lot has been said on social media about the Prime Minister and the government, however, it was not their fault the epidemic was just a natural thing and it was nobody’s fault.
"The government as well as the Prime Minister supported us, they even came to thank us and encouraged all of us.
"I want to thank everyone from the helping hands, to the warriors who prayed for us, to those individuals and communities who fed us.
"It was those little things that really helped us get through this crisis and I want to thank them.”