Les Roberts – Port Loko, Sierra Leone – April 18, 2015
While the exaggerating village we visited yesterday was not a positive story, the visit to the clinic was… almost unimaginably inspirational. The nurse, Mariatu, who runs the clinic, was very good-natured and sharp as a tack. When we came to her to verify the claims that over a dozen people had come to her clinic and died, she verified that and told us oh so much more. Back in October, patients with Ebola started coming. Because if they do not die, they would typically spend three weeks, it got crowded. As they have only a couple beds in the facility, most of the October – November period of hell involved the majority of patients laying on the floor vomiting and defecating. She runs a health post and was absolutely not supposed to accept Ebola patients, but they were her people and she said she could not turn them away. Every day she repeatedly called 117 and asked for help. But, as I wrote back in the Day 54 blog, at the peak of the outbreak there were no beds available so none of the supportive services worked, including ambulance pick-up.
Mariatu had no protective clothing. She had no gloves. She kept calling her superiors asking for these things, and for help, but none came. She did have chlorine. She had some knowledge about infection prevention… and she had guts! Every day she would have the patients drag themselves onto the veranda and she would pour chlorine solution over the floor. They buried the body when a patient died. She kept giving them fluids and food. By late November she could refer patients, and an ambulance would come when she called; by then she had treated 16 patients and 7 of them had lived. Miraculously, neither she nor her assistant became sick! Whether she was astonishingly brave and lucky or astonishingly brave and smart (or both), I cannot assess. I can only say, wow was it humbling to meet her!