Four years after displaying bravery in saving the lives of 22 infants during a fire in the Neonatal Care Unit of the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in downtown Kingston, nurses Mrs. Sophia Cameron, Ms. Camille McIntosh and Ms. Verlyn Faithie-Ann Douse will be honoured on Heroes Day, October 15.
In an interview with JIS News at the hospital on Friday (October 12), before they receive the Badge of Honour for Gallantry from Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, at King’s House, two of the nurses said it was an experience they would never want to relive.
“I’ve never seen so much black smoke. It was a frightening experience. The babies were on oxygen in the room with fire, so it was really an experience. We started putting the babies in a cot to get them out as quickly as possible, and we just created [something like] a conveyor belt and persons were just pushing them out,” Ms. McIntosh recalls.
“We ensured that all the staff were out… . I was thinking ‘I need to get the babies out. Then I need to get the staff out. Then I need to evacuate the hospital’. That was what was in my mind. By the time the fire brigade reached us, the fire was out, but there was still a lot of smoke. It was an experience. We had persons having asthma attack and going to the accident and emergency department,” she tells JIS News.
Mrs. Cameron said she never thought she would be awarded by the Governor-General, given that four years have passed, but she is extremely grateful.
“When it happened, the last thing I was thinking of was an award, because I just did what I had to do. I just saw those babies in my care; there was a fire, so instinct and motherly instinct… all of that inside of me, allowed me to do what I did, and I just want to give God thanks, who is behind all of this,” Mrs. Cameron says.
Ms. McIntosh said she was not thinking about receiving an award either, and she is also grateful.
“I’m so honoured that I am getting the award, but the award really belongs to a collective crew – the maintenance team, the patient care assistants who helped us, the orderlies from the operating theatre, the other nurses who came and helped…there were so many persons who helped to save those babies’ lives,” she says.
Ms. Douse, the other nurse who played an active role in the evacuation process, is off the island and has communicated that she, too is grateful for the award. She will return and join her colleagues on Monday as they collect their awards.