Adam Gilchrist hails Indian nurse in Australia for ‘selfless act’ during pandemic

In an interview to TNM, Sharon Varghese narrates the excitement of her family in getting the cricketer’s congratulatory note and what inspired her to become a nurse.
Adam Gilchrist hails Indian nurse in Australia for ‘selfless act’ during pandemic
Adam Gilchrist hails Indian nurse in Australia for ‘selfless act’ during pandemic
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In March this year, Sharon Varghese from Kerala’s Kottayam became a registered nurse in Australia after graduating from the University of Wollongong. She wanted to join a hospital, where she knew COVID-19 patients were treated. It was the time the coronavirus pandemic had broken out and the world had gone into a lockdown. Sharon was then approached by the aged-care facility in Wollongong where she had earlier worked as a junior nurse while she was still a student. Healthcare workers from far off places could not reach the facility. Could she join them again? Sharon said ‘yes’, joining the facility as a registered nurse.

She didn’t know, however, that a few weeks later, famed Australian cricketer Adam Gilchrist would hail her service in a video. The video was tweeted by the Austrade India twitter handle on June 2.

“I was delighted to hear of the act of kindness by Sharon Varghese, an Indian student in Australia. Sharon was a student at the University of Wollongong. And during the COVID-19 pandemic she gave up her time to act as an aged-care worker throughout that time. Sharon, I want to say congratulations on your selfless act,” said the former captain of the Australian cricket team.

He added, “All of Australia, all of India and more importantly your family will be so very proud of your efforts. Congratulations, thank you and please keep it up because we are all in this together.”

She had no idea, Sharon tells TNM in an interview. “I am part of the University Whatsapp group and they had asked about international students contributing to the society. I said I am an Indian student working in Australia. They asked if I could say that in a video. I did. The next thing I know is Adam Gilchrist has sent a congratulatory note.”

While Sharon was ‘literally shocked’, it was her cricket loving dad Lalichan Mallissery who was overly excited. “Pappa is the kind of person who would look unimpressed if you showed him an Olympic medal but anything about cricket excites him. I knew he was super excited when he managed to comment ‘Good job’,” Sharon says.

Sharon with her father Lalichan

The two of them used to watch cricket games together in Kerala where Sharon had a stint after her earlier Kuwait days, where the family used to live. “It would drive my mother mad when we watched cricket during my board exams!” Sharon says.

After school, she had written the Kerala entrance exam for professional courses, but that was the year it got replaced by NEET (National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test). Sharon then went to study nursing in Australia where she had a cousin to help her.

It is her mother Ancy Philip Vattakinayil that made her want to be in the medical field. Ancy has been a nurse in Kuwait for 25 to 30 years. “I grew up hearing the stories she brought from work. She’d say how fulfilling it is to be in a profession of saving lives. Doctors save lives of course. But then a nurse is there with you from the first stage,” Sharon says.

Sharon with her friends

At the aged-care facility Sharon looks after the medical needs of the residents. There are 70 to 100 residents staying there at any time. Some of them would have dementia. During the lockdown, when they could not see their families for long, several residents had mental health issues including anxiety and depression. “Their families would call us, asking us to find a way to see their parents. We had to find a way where they could see each other and still not be in physical contact. Finally we devised a system where a glass window would separate the residents and the visiting family. The residents stayed inside the facility while the family was on the other side of the window. They would have phones to talk to each other. They were all so happy about it,” Sharon says.

At the aged-care facility, all safety precautions are taken care of, with healthcare workers given masks and aprons and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits. The residents who sometimes get out are isolated and tested when they return.

There is also the support of friends, she says. “The late night shifts sometimes end at 3 or 4 am and my roommates would have prepared food for me. I live with four roommates here.”

Sharon with her roommates

She hopes to work there for a while, gain some experience, and afterward, come to Kerala and work in rural areas. 

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