From China to Saudi Arabia: Doctor fights COVID-19 on frontline

Dr. Al-Jahani is one of the Saudi doctors, who have been representing the Kingdom and its poineering role in humanitarian work overseas, standing shoulder to shoulder with their French counterparts, to combat the spread of COVID-19 virus.

A Saudi medical intern who studied in China is working on the frontline in the Kingdom’s fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Maaz Bashir, 27, who graduated from Hebei North University’s medical school last January, treats patients in the morning and spends his nights volunteering in quarantine centers.

He learned about the killer virus in the last few weeks of his studies in China but had not expected to be part of the Saudi teams combating the pandemic so soon after returning home.

“I was scared, but gradually with time I got used to it. Now I deal with COVID-19 patients every day and I see up to 20 new cases on average; it has become part of my work routine,” he said.

During the first days of the outbreak, Bashir received training on how to deal with the virus and its patients, which helped him overcome his fear and qualified him to work with the team at King Fahd Hospital in Madinah.

Members of Bashir’s family, especially his mother, had concerns about him contracting COVID-19 and calming their fears was one of the challenges he had to face.

“As a medical intern, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm to learn and try different new experiences. My mother was convinced only after she saw my determination to pursue this noble mission. Now she supports me,” he said. 

However, his family’s backing has placed a heavier responsibility on his shoulders in ensuring he does not expose them to the infection. He isolates himself at home and undergoes regular tests for COVID-19 as do his hospital colleagues.

Bashir said that witnessing new patients testing positive for COVID-19 could sometimes be emotional and extremely difficult to deal with. “I can’t forget one kid who had renal failure and tested positive for COVID-19. Such child victims really break my heart.”

He urged others to join the country’s battle against the virus by looking for volunteer jobs in quarantine centers or hospitals.

Bashir plans to continue his higher education in China when the health crisis is over and after he completes his internship program, saying that he won a scholarship from the same university he graduated from in China.

He pointed out that over the last couple of years he had witnessed a growing interest among Saudis to study in China. “I received many questions through my Twitter account from Saudis who showed an interest in completing their studies in China.”

Bashir speaks Arabic, English, Chinese and Burmese (the official language of Myanmar), learning the last two while he was a student in China. He studied medicine in Syria for two years but left shortly after war broke out in the country, heading to China in 2015.