LIVING WITH EBOLA: update 3 from Sierra Leone

My nurse friend in Sierra Leone has just sent this, covering October up to date:  as I said before, she wishes to remain anonymous.  By the way, £1 sterling is equivalent to 7000 Sierra Leonean Le.   (Apologies for the varying sizes and styles of type – I’ve had a lot of trouble posting this one and it’s been back for endless edits).

“1 OCTOBER: Met Mabinty (1 month old) and her Auntie who claimed to be 19 years but looked about 12 years. Mabinty’s parents died of Ebola.  Both tested negative for Ebola so were discharged from the Holding Centre (HC) on the day we met. The District Nutritionist … asked me to help Mabinty since her Aunt was not lactating.  I bought formula milk, feeding bottles, thermos, packets drinking water, and other baby paraphernalia to tide them over until official support came through the NGOs or Ministry of Social Welfare. The Auntie was given training on how to prepare feeds. She did not want to return to her home village  (where 700 people are quarantined) so opted to go to relatives in Rogbon (which has not had any cases of Ebola). They were well received, no stigma, the baby was passed round several women – she was beautiful and obviously well cared for before the loss of her parents, nice clothes, good size for a month and BCG immunisation scar. The house was cement, one of the best in the village.

What happened next is unclear – on the morning of 3rd October the Auntie reported the baby was ill and was advised to take her to the hospital or back to the HC. She did not and, heartbreakingly, Mabinty died that evening. The burial team took post-mortem oral swabs for Ebola but I’ve not been able to trace the result.

2nd October: Repeat of workshop “Ebola and Teenagers: What Can Be Done” for a second group of around 25 young people. During this week, the U-Team (University of Makeni Ebola sensitisation team) visited churches and mosques to set up appointments to raise Ebola awareness among their peers using video clips and question and answer sessions…  This evening, the U-Team will brief me on where they are going, when and collect the 2nd tranche of their funding.  

3rd October: Forced to supply another week’s worth of drinking water to HCs (she gives the reason) …. Since a Bank Holiday weekend was looming … I bought 200 bundles at a discounted price of Le 750,000 (slightly over £100). Met the Catholic Fathers and briefed them on the quantities needed.

7th October: (interminable Min of Social Welfare weekly meeting) Procured sanitary pads for HCs … only discovered at the weekend that there was no provision and given the role of body fluids in virus transmission, washing out cloths is not desirable. Not everybody in the HCs are that sick and some test negative for Ebola.

9th October:  Transported Abu Bakarr (about 9 years) back to his Dad after he was returned cured of Ebola from the Treatment Centre in Kenema. The child had been solemn and withdrawn throughout the afternoon but burst out laughing when he saw his Dad (who had run out from his bath covered in soap when he heard the commotion of the child’s return). Transport for Ebola activities is another constraint… Catholic Mission provides most of the fuel these days but out-of-office-hours, I still sometimes have to buy it.

Late on 9th: Urgent request from the HC at the Regional Hospital  for … guess what? Patients’ drinking water. The nurse-in-charge … appealed to me directly in some desperation, I have to say. Cash donations from friends enable me to respond immediately to such requests while the bureaucracy of official channels takes it course (patients cannot be left without safe/clean water to drink overnight). When I arrived with 100 bundles of water (after dark) I discovered that the HC did not have electricity – so dangerous when staff need to be meticulous in taking off their protective gear. So, I bought them 8 ‘Chinese lamps’ and 4 dozen batteries as a short term response. Since it was late and raining very heavily, I did not explore why there was no electricity, another time. 

10 October: I was asked back to the Regional Hospital to see their constraints in daylight – as a result I replicated the package of items I supplied to the other HCs since their inception (see table below). Four of everything because the HC takes up four hospital wards: male and female each for ‘awaiting lab results’, ‘Ebola positive awaiting transfer to a Treatment Centre’.

REGIONAL HOSPITAL SUPPORT 9TH / 10TH OCTOBER 2014

ITEM

UNIT COST

QUANTITY

TOTAL

 

LE

#

Le

WATER BUNDLES

3,700

100

370,000

CHINESE LAMPS

17,000

4

68,000

BATTERIES, DOZEN

22,000

4

88,000

MOPS

15,000

4

60,000

CLEANING BLADES

15,000

4

60,000

VERONICA BUCKETS WITH ELBOW TAP

60,000

4

240,000

DISINFECTANT 3.5 L

70,000

4

280,000

SOAP POWDER

14,000

4

56,000

MOPPING BUCKETS

65,000

4

260,000

FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS

15,500

8

124,000

(approx. Le 7,000 = £ 1)

   

 

 Of course, spending other people’s money is not all that I do – a lot of time goes in meetings listening for gaps we can fill or sometimes offering advice. Last Sunday afternoon, I sat with the WHO rep to draft survivors’ packages by age group. She could have done it alone, but when people are tired and stressed, two heads can be better than one. In fact, I spend quite a lot of time listening – to survivors and to staff/colleagues.  

That’s it for this update.”
(The cheapest way to buy drinking water here is in 500 ml plastic bags which are sold in ‘bundles’ of 20 packets. Patients are told to drink 5 packets/day, each HC has 60 beds = 5 x 60 x 2 = 600 pkts (30 bundles per day, roughly 200 bundles per week – HCs are not always full but the staff sometimes drink).

There is some good news:  it would appear that Sierra Leonean medical staff are much better-trained than their Spanish counterparts: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/ebola/11155840/Ebola-medics-better-trained-in-Sierra-Leone-than-Spain.

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “LIVING WITH EBOLA: update 3 from Sierra Leone

  1. The biggest problem, from what I can gather, is the refusal of many people in those countries to accept what Ebola is and how it is spread. A great many people, including highly-educated ones, blame it on ‘witchcraft’. My nurse friend has had texts from such people telling her that a ‘witch plane’ had come down in the jungle and killed 30 people – one way of interpreting ‘airborne infection’!

    They can only keep plugging away, and teaching the young people is a good investment for the future, one hopes.

    Like

  2. How do world leaders prioritise between political/ideological wars which more than impinge on people’s well-being and lives and health wars? I guess the stage ebola is at now, probably partly answers the question; it is not though, a one or the other decision. Both areas are currently centre stage. Nevertheless, resources are spread more thinly than they might be because of the other social and political eruptions in our world.

    Ebola is an horrific disease which has been allowed to ravage, partly because of poor local social care and health education. Without dwelling on those disturbing elements of regional politics, the what to do and how to do it, has been stirred into action by world organisations because of the visible risk of ebola on the wider world.

    It is good to hear about some positive pockets of news within this dire situation.

    Like

  3. I agree with Plantpot where is the aid going ?? feel so sorry for these poor people life is hard enough without this dreadful disease hope they contain it soon no easy task ….

    Like

    1. Who knows where it’s going :no: But the newsclip does indicate that the medical staff are well-equipped and well-trained. I can only be sure that money sent to my friend will be used for that purpose – she’s one of the few people I can trust totally!

      Like

  4. I heard the news about Ebola when I was in Germany. It is horrible. Some countries seem to suffer from hardship more than others. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world and needs our attention and help now. 🙂

    Like

  5. Have to get its act together in the West. It was suggested today that Ebola could be exaggerated in its future effects, much what was expected with the Bird Flu and other pandemics. Strong call! Africa always struggles because of its inadequacies in the health field.

    Like

  6. Have to get its act together in the West. It was suggested today that Ebola could be exaggerated in its future effects, much what was expected with the Bird Flu and other pandemics. Strong call! Africa always struggles because of its inadequacies in the health field.

    Like

  7. Have to get its act together in the West. It was suggested today that Ebola could be exaggerated in its future effects, much what was expected with the Bird Flu and other pandemics. Strong call! Africa always struggles because of its inadequacies in the health field.

    Like

    1. This is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more dangerous than bird flu … 😦 and yes, Africa needs less corruption and more good governance. I was listening to the radio this morning and the President of Malawi has put people in jail for corruption. That should be happening on a grand scale.

      Like

  8. I am utterly horrified and disgusted to think that basics like light, water and pads are not available….it’s an absolute outrage….where is all the aid going??? I wish I could do more!!! How wonderful your friend is, I do admire her! How sad about the baby, I do hope the virus didn’t spread.xxx

    Like

  9. I am utterly horrified and disgusted to think that basics like light, water and pads are not available….it’s an absolute outrage….where is all the aid going??? I wish I could do more!!! How wonderful your friend is, I do admire her!xxx

    Like

  10. What desperate conditions. I read recently that there have been trials (and some success) in using the blood of recovered Ebola patients to treat victims with. Let’s hope a cure is soon found.

    Like

    1. When we lived in Nigeria it was Lassa Fever that was the killer. I remember one of our colleagues getting it, and the only way they could treat him was to bring in another colleague who had had Lassa and recovered. They did a patient-to-patient blood transfusion and saved his life. This was the sort of thing that made me realise just how lucky and blessed we are in this country with our NHS.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s