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The Straits Times (31 May 2020)

Among the brave and selfless healthcare professionals working through this Covid-19 pandemic are a netballer, hurdler, dragon boater and silat exponent. Assistant Sports Editor Low Lin Fhoong speaks to Singapore athletes Carmen Goh, Ang Chen Xiang, Vanessa Tan and Atiq Syazwani Roslan, who have stepped up to help the country in the battle against the deadly disease.

On her first day at the Woodlands Lodge 1 workers’ dormitory, healthcare assistant Atiq Syazwani Roslan found herself breathless and drenched in sweat as her full protective gear left her feeling like she had "run a marathon".

Her discomfort worsened during the fasting month of Ramadan (April 24 to May 23), as she could not drink or eat during her shift.

"I knew it was going to be tough and I tried to plan my food intake better, eat more in the morning and try to pace my work... if I was not well, my colleagues were understanding," said the national silat exponent, who won a silver and bronze respectively at the 2017 and 2019 SEA Games.

The 26 year old had signed up for the front line of the Covid-19 battle when the call for volunteers came, despite the role being outside her field as a physiotherapist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

"When my head of department asked whether I wanted to volunteer, my first question was, ‘why not’?" said Atiq, who had already been considering how to contribute to the fight. "I can’t save the whole world and help everyone, but if I can make a difference to someone, I’m happy."

After spending a month at Woodlands Lodge 1, she was redeployed to two other foreign worker dorms, Westlite Juniper and Westlite Mandai. All three were identified as Covid 19 clusters.

Her role as a healthcare assistant involves conducting mass screenings, assisting doctors, registering and monitoring patients, and performing swab tests.

Aside from the challenge of trying to communicate with patients while decked in full medical gear, Atiq had to overcome an initial fear of contracting the virus which saw her cleaning her hands excessively and showering a few times a day.

While her parents are supportive of her work, she has had to distance herself from them as a precautionary measure, refraining initially from hugging or kissing her mother, whom she is very close to.

Atiq added: "She understands and is supportive, and that’s one thing I appreciate."

Such is her dedication to her job that she tries not to drink too much water to avoid having to visit the toilet so often. She said: "There is sufficient PPE (personal protective equipment) but I don’t want to cause unnecessary waste."

Her sacrifices were rewarded by the happy faces and the thumbsup signs she got when over 60 workers were declared healthy after serving their quarantine orders, adding: "I see how joyful they are and I’m happy for them."

While Atiq, who tries to work out for 30 minutes daily to maintain her fitness, says she cannot wait to get back to the physiotherapy job she loves, she is well aware that there is a long battle ahead.

Urging on the other Singapore athletes working on the front line, she added: "They are all like me, fighting something we cannot see and we don’t know when it’ll end, but I hope they know that they are making a difference in this pandemic."

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