Jennifer: I'm Head Nurse at the Intensive Care Unit at Shaukat Khanum Hospital

“Thank you for giving me the strength to do my job.”

Jennifer is the Head Nurse at our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Lahore. She’s been working with cancer patients at Shaukat Khanum Hosptial for over 20 years. But this isn’t a job that becomes easier to do with time, and part of Jennifer’s job is to stay strong for the patients. ‘Sometimes I have to hold myself back from crying,’ she says, ‘because if you break down, you will break down a patient’s hope.’

Hailing from the Phillipines, Jennifer came to Pakistan 20 years ago to train nurses at Shaukat Khanum Hospital. ‘Initially, I was reluctant and hesitant to come,’ she recalls, ‘but then I was told that it was a cancer hospital run on charity donations. I was intrigued, so I said okay, let me try. There were 20 of us nurses who came to Pakistan together. One by one, my colleagues eventually went back over the years, but I stayed on.’

‘Shaukat Khanum Hospital has changed me so much as a person. My own parents died of cancer. It was devastating. But here, where I’m supporting patients and their families; supporting the siblings of child patients; fighting with them to beat this disease day in and day out –it’s life changing. Now I tell myself, as long as I live I will work here for cancer patients.’

Back in her home country Jennifer didn’t see many cancer cases. So when she started working at Shaukat Khanum, she felt overwhelmed. ‘It was difficult to see so many people, so many patients suffering from this disease. I was so emotional.’

This was not uncommon of course, because it can never get easy to see someone suffer, especially if it’s a child. ‘Some of our nurses will deal with the job the way they need to,’ says Jennifer, ‘but you will sometimes see them breaking down in a corner.’

‘The patients want somebody strong,’ she says, ‘they want somebody to give them hope even in their critical state.’ Jennifer is able to do this because she has found so much to draw strength from. She draws it from the patients and the families who rise above the pain like heroes. She draws it from the faith and the prayers and donations that have kept Shaukat Khanum Hospital going all these years.

Here at the Lahore hospital’s ICU where Jennifer works, we have 18 beds. These are divided into two sections: high dependency and intensive care –where patients are kept on ventilators. At the unit we have consultants, pulmonologists, therapists and highly specialized ICU nurses for patients who are extremely critical. Our nurse to patient ratio is 1:1. It’s no exaggeration to say that by Pakistan standards, this is truly a first, and it wouldn’t have been possible without your support.

From Jennifer, and all of our ICU staff at Shaukat Khanum, thank you for giving us the means and the strength to support some of Pakistan’s poorest in their time of greatest need.

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