SRINAGAR, May 24: In a materialistic world, her emotions drove her work. And in her quest to lend a hand, she patiently faced the ridicule of her seniors and their indifference.
That is why Rehana Akhter of Srinagar was conferred with the National Florence Nightingale award by the President of India this month. That is also perhaps why she chose to be nurse in the first place in 1997, when she was just 18.
Perhaps it was her passion which drove her towards nursing, unknowingly. “I was interested in helping people ever since I was a child. Whenever I saw anybody who was sick, I would clutch my fists out of helplessness…I wanted to help them but I didn’t know what to do,” says the nurse at Sheri Kashmir Institute Medical sciences (SKIMS).
Born in a school teacher’s family, Akhter hadn’t heard much about Florence Nightingale till she began attending a course in professional nursing.
“It was sheer coincidence”, she says, “As my elder sister was interested in becoming a nurse, I decided to give her company after my class 12”. “We both got a nursing job but my sister left the job after some time saying that it wasn’t good for us because we belong to a good family,” she says.
Akhtar, however, had found her way. “I didn’t care for what people said. I would be filled with joy after catering to my patients,” she boasts.
“Caring for them would make me feel like an angel,” says the nurse in her mid-thirties.
“One of my patients had been injured during the Amarnath yatra here. He was all alone. So I would sometimes bringsewaiyyan for him. Now every year on Raksha Bandhan, he comes from Delhi and makes me tie a rakhi on his hand. That is the best feeling,” she says.
Akhter has always gone much out of her way for her patients. Often she would stay back till late after her normal shifts were over. “Do you know what stoma care is? It is about patients whose bowel movements are messed up due to surgeries. A bag has to be fixed at the place of incision for the faeces to come out,” she says
“When I was posted there I was wondering how I could help them. So I wrote a guide for them in Urdu so that they could read it and take necessary precautions,” she says.
And has her love for the patients touched her skin? Yes, after years of working at the ICU, Akhter had acquired a serious infection and shifted to AIIMS Delhi for treatment. “I had to be even resuscitated,” she says.
But her close encounter with death did not keep her from coming back for patients who needed her the most. But this wasn’t always easy for her.
She had to face taunts from her doctors who, she says, would laugh at her ‘over enthusiasm’ towards patients. “But there were others who appreciated me and would call me ‘Florence’. See I have become one today,” she laughs.
“She is extremely good and deserved the award. Being a doctor I know how she helps patients in stoma care and that is why we all respect her too much,” says Dr Afaq Ahmad, a surgeon at SKIMS.
Akhter is also a regular contributor to her hospital’s Nursing Journal. And much like the real Florence, who rejected a marriage proposal fearing that could get in the way of her work, Akhter has no plans of marrying soon.
Pursuing her master’s degree in Nursing after taking a leave from the hospital, she feels that she is getting away from her patients. “I am worried about my patients. They must be missing me. So I am thinking about starting a clinic where I can at least help them after my classes,” she says.