Healthcare Heroes: The Mohamed family

  • Feature   Wed, Sep 8th, 2021   Delaney Regehr
Rex and Meera Mohamed, and their children Afreen, Samena, and Aum.

Rex and Meera Mohamed, and their children Afreen, Samena, and Aum.

Throughout the pandemic, talk of “Healthcare Heroes” has frequented headlines and lawn signs, appearing in almost every media outlet. During a time when more emphasis has been put on healthcare than ever before, the popular saying, “Not all heroes wear capes,” seems to have made its new debut.
Imagine, at the very beginning of the pandemic, realizing that you could provide resources to help thousands of people receive COVID assessments that would protect others from the virus. How much would you be willing to sacrifice to make that happen? Your time, your energy, your finances, your business, your family, your contacts, your safety, your comfort? The list could go on.
How about all the above?
It’s safe to say that most people wouldn’t sacrifice all the above.
Rashid and Mariam Mohamed, affectionately known by the names Rex and Meera, are not most people. In fact, their family’s service, and dedication to helping others during the pandemic could be put in a class of its own.
Rex and Meera, along with their two daughters, Afreen and Samena, and son, Aum, have spent the last year and a half of the pandemic building an initiative that has allowed thousands of people to receive COVID-19 assessments safely.
When the pandemic first began, during a time when COVID-19 was considered a fad, or a fluke, a vacation to some, the apocalypse to others, Rex and Meera understood that there was something more that had to be done. As the founders and medical directors of several clinics in the Waterloo Region, they saw an opportunity to contribute to the community, and from day one, committed to it wholeheartedly.
Dr. Austin Mall, a colleague, and friend of Rex and Meera described the tense situation amongst medical staff at the time. “When the pandemic hit in March, we were all sitting at the table, and all I can hear from Rex is that we need to do something. We have a duty to do something, and we need to make sure we don’t leave the community hanging. At that time, out of the 37 team members on the table that evening, it’s embarrassing to say that with myself, there were only seven people left at the table,” he recounts. “Everything was put in place. The reason people started walking away is there was no pay. This was somebody saying, let’s do this out of goodwill.”
As the number of new cases began to climb, COVID assessment clinics were in high demand. Testing could, in theory, be done at the hospitals, but a dedicated space would make the process much more efficient. Without any hesitation, the Mohamed family worked tirelessly to transform their clinic into a much-needed COVID-19 assessment centre, using their own funds and resources.
“Every person quit. The whole staff, medical officers, nurses, gone. And for some reason, it did not feel like it shook him,” recalled Dr. Mall. “These people were machines. They did not go home. In three days, the clinic was converted. Totally converted.”
The assessment clinic was ready for action, and at a time when it was needed more than ever. As the COVID case continued to spike, Rex and Meera’s clinic began to receive calls from people, particularly seniors, who had COVID symptoms, but no mode of transport that would allow them to reach the clinic.
Discussions were had amongst medical staff, prompting a solution to this new conundrum. People needed to be tested, but if they had symptoms, taking public transit or a shared vehicle would only compromise the safety of others. It was then that Rex came up with a creative solution and reached out to a friend who owned a limousine rental.
For the next several weeks, the limo became the new mode of transportation for those who required a COVID assessment. The space between the driver and the back seat exceeded six feet, allowing for the safe transport of patients to the clinic. And with this new solution, the Mohamed family personally chauffeured those who needed this service, to and from the clinic. The task was not easy, or cheap, or quick, since the vehicle had to be carefully sanitized between each use, but that was never a deterrent for them.
After a little while, as it became apparent that the pandemic had no intentions of sticking to its original three-week timeline, Rex and Meera began to search for a more permanent solution. They purchased two retired ambulances and a couple of retired police cruisers to replace the limousine. Both the ambulances and the police cars had a division between the front and back seats, which would allow people to receive transportation without coming in contact with the driver.
“Nobody left any stones unturned for giving them a hard time. They said they needed commercial insurance for patients, he said I will pay for insurance. They said what about the gas, he said I will pay for the gas. They said what about the driver, he said, I will get a couple friends of mine, who are ex-police officers and ambulance drivers, and they will drive for free, no cost, and if they don’t drive, I will drive.”
In addition to transporting people to and from the assessment centre, the vehicles also provided transport to the Radisson Hotel in Kitchener for those living in inadequate housing conditions. At the time, the hotel was being used as a quarantine centre for those who had COVID symptoms and could not access community shelters.
Rex and Meera also recognized their solution to specifically provide service for smaller communities in and around Wilmot Township. With most assessment centres concentrated in the city, transportation was particularly an issue for Wilmot residents, especially those living in remote or rural areas. With the help of the ambulances, transportation, and countless resources, such as masks, sanitizer, and non-perishable food items, were provided for residents here in Wilmot.
Throughout the pandemic, thousands of people were transported, during all hours of the day, to and from COVID assessment centres by use of these vehicles. The entire family, including Afreen, Samena, and Aum, worked faithfully around the clock to provide service for everyone who entered their clinic.
“COVID assessment centres worked from 7:00 AM to 11 PM. So, you must start, if you are a worker, at 6:00 because you have to prep, and your closing is an hour or two after. By the time you come back, it’s like three in the morning,” says Dr. Mall.
Rex and Meera’s COVID assessment centre closed on May 28th of 2021, but their family’s work and dedication to the community has never wavered. They still receive calls for transportation, and they continue to accept them without a second thought.
Dr. Mall recounted, “In my career of 20 years in medicine, I have never witnessed a family so all together, all out, selfless.”
So for those who may still be wondering, heroes do exist, and they exist right here in Wilmot Township. And just to confirm, they don’t (most of the time) wear capes. Thank you, to Rex and Meera and their children Afreen, Samena, and Aum, for everything you’ve sacrificed to provide safety for others.