LIVING WITH EBOLA

I was worried about a friend of mine, who has worked for many years as a senior nurse in Sierra Leone.  I was particularly worried when I saw that there was a case of Ebola in the hospital where she works.   This is her reply:
‘I left the hospital just before the blockage/quarantine was enforced under the State of Emergency. Before I left two student nurses had died, about 4 others were infected but survived, one colleague died … The young Liberian woman … who stays in the room next to mine at home died while on holidays in Monrovia. We do not know for sure that Ebola was the cause but that’s the family’s suspicion. She was a big, beefy, apparently healthy girl, it’s hard to imagine what else could have killed her.

The response has seemed chaotic …. It’s been a bit better here than in Liberia, I think. It was not the virus per se that drove me from the hospital but the abuse and threats related to being a foreigner and a nurse ‘responsible for bringing Ebola’. Nearly did not get away – at the ‘bus station’ was surrounded by the touts who load passengers shouting that I (as a foreigner) had brought Ebola to SL and now I was running away. During the pushing and shoving, I felt a hand in my rucksack, a young lad, so the crowd turned on him instead. I beat a hasty retreat to a nearby bank (where I am known), phoned people I knew, one lad came, went to the vehicle park and quietly chartered a taxi to take me on my own to Bo.  I had to pay huge money but at least I got away safely. No trouble in Bo, I boarded a bus and paid for the whole of the front seat (where two passengers are normally squashed) to avoid close physical contact.

The reports mostly from Kenema seem v accurate – resonate with what people tell me by phone and pictures are genuine: http://www.newsweek.com/user/10213   Lately I have funded gloves and chlorine for the Government Hospital:  now the University is raising more money outside. Where all the thousands in official aid is going no-one understands:  on the ground, the basics are missing. Hard to keep focused on my academic work –  tempting to waste time scanning every Ebola report on the Internet. Sent my CV around (to international medical agencies)  … Don’t want to volunteer directly with the Government because they don’t have proper safety measures in place.”

What’s clear from this is not only that everything is chaotic there, but also that a great many more people are infected with and dying from Ebola than is being reported in the news.

This friend is incredibly brave.  She is very much in my prayers for continuing safety. 

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24 thoughts on “LIVING WITH EBOLA

    1. Got another email today, Bar – even very educated people there, with university degrees, are putting it all down to ‘witchcraft’. There’s not much hope for the general population understanding how Ebola spreads, when that’s the case!

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  1. The primary evidence contained in the letter reflects what the correspondents have been analysing. They don’t however, spell out the misappropriation of monies and supplies for the hospitals; they do just about hint at it, though you would have to have some cognisance of the issue to pick up on their nuanced statements. It is a frightening and troublesome situation in Africa with prejudice and blame focussing on foreigners, as there is nowhere else to vent anger at the helplessness that must be generally felt. It is another nasty sore in an already pained affair. Odd though it sounds, it was fortuitous that a thief was able to distract the actions of the crowd, giving your letter writer the opportunity to make good her escape from the centre of attention in a potentially horrible crowd scene.

    I pick up that official sources are inept at sourcing and supporting able and qualified vouinteers. That is extraordinarily worrying with the march of this epidemic. Your friend is gutsy to wish to battle on.

    The letter is a very important document.

    I wish her well.

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  2. Good grief, what a terrifying situation your friend found herself in, I so glad she got away, she sounds incredibly brave, let’s hope she stays safe.
    There is so much going on in the world at the moment this is slipping away and being sidelined….I do hope it’s brought under control and that funds are used properly, people living in the infected areas must be scared witless.xxx

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    1. The problem, Pete, is the superstitious majority who don’t understand how disease is spread. I think neighbouring Liberia has had to create a state of emergency to prevent people from travelling out of their home areas, and now there’s talk of a curfew too. It must be depressing for medical people who have worked there for a very long time, patiently teaching people health basics, to realise how quickly they revert to medicine men and superstition. 😦

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    1. I hope so but all the possible cures are at the experimental stage, which is not usually acceptable. However I understand that research institutes in Canada have sent all their experimental drugs to Africa so that it can at least try and help. Otherwise there’s no cure, as you know 😦

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  3. The problem with Ebola has been, well to be frank its only killed Africans and hence the major drug companies have put no effort into finding a cure or developing treatments. Of course if it were to start to spread to the west that might change, but then it would be too little too late!

    My sister worked in Africa for awhile (Southern Africa) and heard all sorts of rumours and old wife’s tales that locals believed would cure AIDS, none of which were true of course!

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    1. I know exactly what you’re saying. It would be a very different thing if it were ‘us’ who were affected … it must be depressing for health professionals who have worked in Africa all their lives, teaching basic health care, to see how quickly people revert to superstition.

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  4. What a brave person to do the work she does and how terrifying to be harassed by a mob of people unaware of the truth of the situation – am so glad she managed to get away to somewhere safer. I join you in prayers for her…..you must be really anxious about her….

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    1. I know when we work in places like that we accept there will be risks that aren’t there in our own western culture. I know she’ll be OK, but our prayers are necessary to her :yes:

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  5. She will be in my prayers too. . . . .unfortunately these prolific diseases seem to attack us every so often . . .hopefully like aids and the like we will find ways if not of curing then preventing such a quick spread. In the meantime GodBless all those working or living with it.

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  6. Hopefully….a way out of the chaos will soon be found…..:roll: Fingers Crossed…..Waves of prayerful thoughts wing their way to these desperate areas….:)xx

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  7. This is a terrifying illness. Named after the river Ebola apparently. It has been around for a long time, appearing briefly and then fading away. But this time that doesn’t seem to be happening for some reason.
    We can all see that if it spreads like the Spanish Flu, then huge numbers of people could be killed around the world.
    I do hope that your friend manages to stay safe until this episode is brought under control. She is a brave woman trying to help others, so she deserves to be spared.

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    1. Thanks, Kegs. When we lived in Nigeria the killer was Lassa Fever, and the only way to treat it was to find somebody who had had it and survived (few did) and then run a blood transfusion directly from them into the patient. But I think Ebola is even more terrifying, as you say. My friend is wise, speaks the language, knows and understands the people, and I know she won’t take any unnecessary risks.

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