Less than a year after Jamie Hendricks was a student at university studying pandemic scenarios, she finds herself working closely with a team developing a rapid diagnostic test kit for Covid-19.
“It’s a surreal experience – and now I’m working closely with this novel virus,” said Jamie.
The 23-year-old Pelican Park resident who used to live in Tafelsig, is a junior scientific officer at LifeAssay Diagnostics where they’re working on an antibody diagnostic test which rapidly detects the immune response to the virus and is a non-invasive and relatively inexpensive method of testing.
In addition to the strain of being an essential worker as the world faces the impact of the pandemic, Jamie is also dealing with the disappointment of not having been able to attend a physical graduation after years of diligent study.
After matriculating from Oval North Technical High School in Beacon Valley in 2014, she registered for a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in 2015 and was capped in a virtual graduation ceremony in March, the nationwide lockdown having put a stop to all big gatherings.
“After years of hard work, for it to be concluded like that was disappointing. I understand why it’s necessary to have cancelled the physical one, but I’m only human and was really looking forward to my walk across the stage after years of hard work,” she said.
Reflecting on how the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown had impacted her life, Jamie said sanitising had already been part of her daily routine, but now fear of infection and having to go straight to the bathroom to wash her hands as soon as she gets home, were daily realities.
She even sanitises her car’s steering wheel and always wears a mask when outdoors or at work.
“You’re constantly worrying about what happens if you become infected, how it will affect life and those around you. Being an essential worker puts everyone close to you at risk,” she said.
However, Jamie added: “I’m still grateful for having a job in these uncertain times and to be earning an income. In this pandemic, it’s a blessing.”
She lives with her parents and, as a home-based carer, her mother Petula, is also an essential worker.
“I wouldn’t say my dad is susceptible to the virus, however,
I don’t think anyone should think it won’t affect them as it could infect anyone of any age group. I’m more concerned about being a carrier for it and infecting others that are more compromised with their health,” she said.
Asked about her chosen career, Jamie described being a scientist as “challenging” but that “the prize is always worth the fight”.
“There’ll be sleepless nights, hard work and probably tears, but if that’s where your heart is, don’t give up until you’ve reached your goals.”