Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Time in an ETU

Today marks one week of me being here. It’s funny looking back at my expectations and what I thought I would be walking into and what the reality really is. 

There are two sides to the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) where patients stay. When they are first admitted they go into the suspected ward. After their labs are drawn and we get results back, the next day, then they are either discharged home or to the hospital if they are sick with something else, or if their labs come back positive for ebola, then they are moved to the confirmed side of the ETU. There has been one 11 year old boy on the confirmed side since before my arrival. All the patients we have gotten in on the suspected side have all been negative for ebola thus far so they are here for less than 24 hours usually. The boy in the confirmed ward is getting stronger every day and is expected to go home soon. On Christmas Eve he was up dancing and showing off his moves.

The pace here is a lot slower than I was expecting. It’s a good thing, I know, meaning there are not as many cases coming in. When you come out of the unit, there is not much else to do until the next time you go in which can be many hours later. I’ve been talking with many of the national nurses and that has been interesting. Everyone here knows many people who have died from ebola and they have all been affected in some way. All the schools have been closed since the outbreak became severe, so many of the nurses who were in school are working here as nursing aids. A nurse I was talking with yesterday was telling me about how many families in his village were quarantined in their homes when someone in their family became sick. The community would have to bring them food and if a person died, the right people would come and remove the body. He was telling me about how he grew up as a child in the midst of the war, became a refugee and eventually moved back here when it was safe. The country was rebuilding and now this. It’s a difficult time for everyone. 

On Christmas Eve we had a celebration for the workers. Lots of preaching and dancing in full form. Lights and decorations and fake trees were put up throughout the ETU to make it festive. A good friend sent me this LINK which was my Christmas message this year. Also, take a look at THIS which a couple others sent me which I found really funny. You need to watch it to the end. I hope you all had a great Christmas and remember why we celebrate!

Monday, December 22, 2014


After 36 hours of traveling I made it to Liberia without much hassle. My luggage even arrived which I’m told does not have often so I should be proud of that. I was pretty anxious on my flights here, not knowing what I would be walking into but as soon as the plane touched down my nerves were calmed. I had arrived and there was no turning back. 

Stepping off the plane I smelled it. I smelled Liberia. It’s hard to put into words what that smell is, but it smelled of Liberia. Before entering the airport, you washed your hands with bleach water and had your temperature taken. Only then were you allowed inside. I made it through and quickly found others with IMC. I shook hands with another newcomer and realized that was the last time I would be shaking hands here. Physical contact is not allowed as it can spread the virus. As we were driving down the road I had to laugh to myself. So many memories came back from seven years ago when I was here last. People with their hand out, shaking it to get a taxi. Driving at night, you are to flash your brights when you are close to the oncoming car so they know you are there (I never understood that). The large billboards which I remember having election information or condom use on them were now covered with information on ebola. 

Yesterday morning I went into the ebola unit for the first time. I was in there for about forty minutes and that was long enough for me for the first time. Getting suited up was a chore but there were many people there to help. Not the slightest skin could be showing. You had people to tie you, tape up your gloves, check and double check you were safe to enter. I appreciated that. It’s not because I am new that all the help was there, it is the way it is done, even for an experienced ebola nurse. It’s the same thing coming out of the unit. You stand with your hands up as you are sprayed with bleach water. Another person then tells you step by step what you do to remove your PPE, protective gear. After every step your gloved hands are washed with bleach water. When you finally have everything off and your hands are washed and boots cleaned, you change your scrubs. Drenched in sweat. Soaked. Many of the Liberian nurses would come out and not have a drop on them. Maybe my body will get used to this too, but for now, drenched sweaty scrubs it is. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Adding a post after so long can only mean one thing...

I am returning to the continent that I love and call home.

Since the Ebola outbreak started over a year ago, my heart has been breaking for West Africa. The fear and death and uncertainty that has overtaken that part of the world is overwhelming. When I think of West Africa, I think of the people. The hospitality, smiles, joy, love that the people have shown me during the three years I have spent there breaks my heart knowing what they are going through. I decided not long ago that I would move forward and apply to go and see what happened. I knew doors could open or doors could close but I decided I would keep moving until God told me no.

He didn't.

Doors closed, but others opened and I kept moving and I'm glad I did because now I am about to leave.

I just got my plane ticket and will be leaving this Friday. I will be going to Liberia with International Medical Corps (IMC). They were featured on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago. You can watch the episode here.

I ask for your prayers. Prayers for those infected with ebola. Prayers for strength and grace in this journey. For safety and strong health. For strength in wearing the protective gear while treating the patients. Prayers for everything and anything God brings you to pray for.

I will update on here as I can. Thank you for your prayers and support.