American Univesity of Beirut

The courage to care

​ As the International Year of the Nurse draws to a close, meet four AUBMC heroes who treated COVID-19 patients and August 4 casualties.​

​​​​​​December 6, 2020

We all know how dedicated nurses are; we have all seen them working as we visit relatives in hospital wards or become patients ourselves. Sometimes we connect with these tireless caregivers as they perform their duties, but it is rare to find what really makes a nurse tick. We spoke to four AUBMC nurses on the frontline in 2020, treating COVID-19 patients and casualties. Here are their stories in their own words:

Hratch Moskofian

“When I fi​rst heard about the pandemic, I thought that I must volunteer to help these people. It is my duty to help patients and I took an oath to do that. The struggle started when I told my parents and friends [about volunteering], and we agreed to stop seeing each other. For two months, I stayed away from my family, friends, and my dog!" 

“The emotional struggle and physical struggles of working with critically ill COVID-19 patients were great. We sometimes had to just exit our patient's room to breathe and see again. The influx of patients increased with time, and soon people that we know became also ill and infected. Families called us nonstop because we were the only link between them and their loved ones."​

Hratch Moskofian, registered nurse at the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU).


Sukaina Awerki

“The moment I reached the ED​ entrance I knew my shift won't be as any of my previous ones. Total shock, hundreds of employees that I barely knew, dead bodies in the hallway, and critical patients. Blood and the smell it causes filled the air and people's screams rang into every ear." 

“I went to put on my scrubs, and I couldn't but start crying; I barely had the energy to breathe. It took me two minutes to understand what's going on. I wiped my tears and looked in the mirror: your hospital, your department, your colleagues, and your country need you. You can do it!.

Sukaina Awerki, registered nurse, Emergency Department, on August 4, 2020.


Ahmad Tafesh

“My mission as a nurse at AUBMC was to keep steady in the face of any unexpected disaster, [so] I volunteered as a registered nurse in the COVID ICU. I stayed away from my house, wife, and three kids to prevent them from being infected. On the other hand, there was the risk of my being infected. No one can imagine what it feels like wearing the precautionary garments and being covered from head to toes for a minimum of eight hours!" 

“People suffering from severe and chronic illnesses [were admitted to] intensive care but despite all this, they don't survive. One of the worst feelings in the world is being useless when trying to save lives. Then, came the Beirut explosion on August 4…"

Ahmad Tafesh, registered nurse at the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU).


Rita Malkdjian

“I almost lost my breath as I fought off a COVID-19 infection; I almost lost my drive in the COVID ICU as I saw the young and the old fall victims to this vicious virus; I almost lost my home on August 4; and I almost lost my pride as I saw my homeland Armenia being taken away from my people."

“Looking at the inspiring nurses and doctors doing just that while risking their lives and wellbeing to take care of the sickest of the sick, and watching strangers restore each other's homes, I can say that it will  be alright 'almost'."

Rita Malkdjian, registered nurse at the Respiratory Care Unit.


“Nothing was more rewarding than a phone call from a family member or a positive comment from a patient thanking us from the bottom of their heart for our work. We felt down when losing a patient but proud when our patients improved." Hratch.


“One scene I won't forget is that of a joyful person who was grateful for finding his brother. I knew this smile won't last because his brother was found to be in the Black Zone assigned to the deceased patients. I could only look at him with tears that welled up my eyes. I couldn't say a word." Sukaina.


“Being a hero in the presence of these tired patients is pretty difficult. But people's lives and their wellbeing never stopped to be our first priority at AUBMC." Ahmad.


“I didn't have time to actually check on my colleagues. Seeing any of them from afar was enough; it meant they have survived. We all had that look: we'll get over it; we will resuscitate patients as much as we can, until our final breath​ no matter what it takes from us." Sukaina.


“Somehow, I write this today, feeling thankful, blessed, but ever-wondering why this 'almost' has stood between me and total loss - which was not the case for many of those surrounding me." Rita.


“I don't regret it at all because it was an experience that added to my knowledge. I felt supported by the whole community that appreciated what we were doing." Hratch. ​


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