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A 'guardian angel:' How a contact tracing assistant saved a life

When Nake Bhupal called a COVID-19 positive case for assessment, his gut told him something was wrong. Read how Nake's quick response to the situation helped save a client's life.
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​When Harnek (Nake) Bhupal, a COVID-19 contact tracing assistant, started his day on April 25, he couldn’t have anticipated the unexpected turn it would take. 

Nake was assigned a client with a positive COVID-19 test to call for an assessment. As soon as the client answered the phone, he knew something was wrong.

Staying calm, acting fast

“All I could hear was deep breathing and panting,” Nake recalled. In that moment, he tapped into his training as a volunteer with St John’s Ambulance. 

“I asked the client if she was in distress and vaguely heard her say ‘I can’t breathe.’” He calmly requested the client to not speak and to unlock the door for paramedics if possible. Keeping the client on the phone, he reached for his cell phone to dial 911.

“I informed the 911 operator that a COVID-19 positive client was experiencing respiratory symptoms and shared other details the paramedics would need.” 

His swift response proved life-saving. The client was rushed to the hospital and is currently recovering at home. “I am so glad she got the help she needed,” said Nake.

In a heart-warming expression of gratitude, the client requested to reach out to Nake to thank him. 

“[Even] if I keep saying ‘thank you’ till tomorrow, it won't be enough…You are my guardian angel!” the client wrote in her note to Nake. 

Nake’s name, Harnek, roughly translates to an honest, noble person in Punjabi. When asked about this coincidence, he laughed, “Perhaps my parents had a hunch!”

Leaving a positive impact

“Hearing about Nake’s responsiveness and care for this client affirmed to me how valuable contact tracing assistants are to COVID-19 services across the province,” said Jillian Arkles, manager of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team. “Thank you, Nake for going the extra mile and saving this client’s life.”

Contact tracing assistants serve an important role in helping limit the spread of COVID-19. They call people who test positive for COVID-19 positive cases and their close contacts for assessment and to inform them about exposure. They are a part of the BC Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Team and are deployed throughout the province to support health authorities in their COVID-19 response. 

In addition to contact tracing, their tasks can include data entry for immunization records. 

Nake Picture2.jpg In a recent deployment, Nake and his team travelled to the Northern Health region to support immunization in Nisga’a communities. 

“It was incredible to see how the whole community is so close-knit. Being able to make a positive impact in people’s lives is an incredible feeling and I cherish the relationships I get to build through my job.”

Nake said he is grateful for all the opportunities he has received in the past eight months as a contact tracing assistant. “It has been quite humbling and eye-opening. Being able to talk to people who have been directly impacted by COVID-19 and reassure them is a fulfilling feeling.”

Driven by his passion to “help others”, this kinesiology major is looking forward to furthering his education this September with a master of occupational therapy degree. “I hope to keep helping people and making a positive change in our communities.”

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