Why I’m scared to go home

I’ve worked with MSF for two years now. None of my previous assignments have ever been breaking news until now.

That’s a problem on many different levels. It’s a problem because no one cared about high HIV/AIDS infection rates in Kenya. It’s a problem because no one cared about the high infant and maternal mortality rates in Laos. It’s a problem because no one cared about the thousands of South Sudanese refugees walking across the Ethiopian border every week.

Dangerous 'news'

It’s awfully hot in Liberia. I’ve had a terrible day. I’ve entered the high-risk zone twice, trying to do everything I can to help my patients in their fight against this terrible disease that consumes them.

Every single task takes much longer than it should because the personal protective equipment that keeps us safe complicates even the simplest tasks. Twenty minutes to set an intravenous line for a patient that, in obvious hypovolemic shock* due to vomiting and diarrhoea, agonizes in bed.

Constructing an EMC

When I arrived in Foya, the Ebola Management Center (EMC) had already been completed.

In the course of a couple of weeks, the team before me had constructed over 20 structures; some tents, some wood framed buildings wrapped in plastic sheeting. The expanse and planning of the center is quiet impressive. Unlike the only other center I’ve visited, which was unfortunately sandwiched in an existing hospital’s courtyard, this center was well defined with separate and adequate spaces for all of the different medical activities.

Ebola stigma: another barrier in the battle

Working as a doctor in Sierra Leone a couple of months ago I was showered in flattery. Not just me, all of us. A team of “selfless heroes”, out in the midst of the worst public health emergency in living memory, trying to assist the communities collapsing around us. Arriving back in the UK I had more invitations than I could have ever taken up. The public thirst to hear first hand what it’s like over there was unquenchable.

The closest thing to hell

When I arrived at the Ebola Management Center (EMC) in Foya, two weeks ago, it felt like this place was from another dimension, but it is now part of my routine.

I have grown accustomed to washing my hands in a 0.05% chlorine solution every five  minutes, and having my feet sprayed with an even higher concentration, a 0.5% chlorine solution, every time I enter or exit. Everything smells like chlorine here.