Ebola Diaries

Dr. Adam C. Levine is an ER doctor from Rhode Island who recently volunteered with the International Medical Corps to fight the Ebola virus in Liberia.

The radio show The Takeaway asked him to keep a radio diary and it is a remarkable document of a doctor doing his job in an incredibly difficult situation.

Pierre Trbovic, an anthropologist from Belgium, is working with Doctors Without Borders and he also kept a diary about his time in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. It is a heart-breaking story in which the aid teams are both under-resourced and heroic. He writes about having to turn patients away:

“I had to turn away one couple who arrived with their young daughter. Two hours later the girl died in front of our gate, where she remained until the body removal team took her away. We regularly had ambulances turning up with suspected Ebola patients from other health facilities, but there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t send them anywhere else. Everywhere was, and still is, full. “

And the reality of the high risk zone:

“It can take 15 minutes to dress fully in the personal protective equipment and, once inside, you can only stay for an hour before you are exhausted and covered in sweat. You can’t overstay or it starts getting dangerous. The patients are also really unwell, and it is a lot of work to keep the tents clean of human excrement, blood, and vomit, and to remove the dead bodies.”

Dr Gabriel Fitzpatrick describes his experience of working with Doctors without Borders in Sierra Leone for the BBC.

“In the suspected cases ward I saw a small child getting his nappy changed by a nurse who was wearing a full body plastic protective suit…The child was clinging on to the nurse, searching and hoping for comfort in a place which does not allow direct skin-to-skin contact. As a father myself, this image stuck in my mind.”

He also writes about the rules the health care providers must follow:

“There are a few rules in the Ebola treatment centre that are sometimes difficult to remember and go against our natural instincts…Firstly, shaking hands with anybody is forbidden, and you must keep a certain distance away from people at all times. This can feel isolating.”

Finally, there is the testimony of Saa Sabas, a Ebola Survivor who now tells his story in Guinea to explain that it is possible to survive the virus. Amidst the death and bleakness, there is hope for life.

Doctors Council members have provided emergency medical aid over the years in such instances as Hurricane Katrina, Haiti and responding to Hurricane Sandy. Our doctors have experienced many emotional interactions in providing these emergency services but to a person found them fulfilling and life-changing.

What are some of your experiences or that of your colleagues in providing emergency aid to areas in need?

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