Andrew Wegoye, an ER nurse at Inspira Medical Center Woodbury, is stationed at an Ebola treatment unit in Buchanan, Liberia. He works for the aid group AmeriCares, and wrote this for Philly.com's "Checkup" blog.
About a month ago, I arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, to help with efforts to reverse the current Ebola outbreak. In my first week, as we drove through the suburbs of Monrovia to our training venue and back to the hotel, life seemed normal in many ways. Markets lined the road. Strangers greeted one another with genuine smiles. Life seemed much like the one I experienced growing up in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. I felt at home.
But the cloud of the epidemic still hangs over the city.
People religiously avoid shaking hands and hugging. Most public places keep a bucket of chlorinated water at entrance points for people to wash hands before entering. A temperature check, too, is mandatory before entry.
It is school season here, but schools look abandoned, and along the streets, billboards describe how to prevent the transmission of Ebola. Over the FM radio in our van, a beer commercial starts by encouraging people to wash their hands and avoid traditional burial practices for deceased Ebola patients.
Over the next days, I received training about caring for Ebola patients. Provided by medical staff from the U.S. Department of Defense and the World Health Organization, we learned about proper hand-washing, clinical management of patients, how to use our personal protective equipment (PPE), and dead-body management. The men and women in uniform braved the heat and humidity to do all of this with the utmost professionalism.
We also had the opportunity to meet with Liberian Ebola survivors. They shared their battle with the disease and volunteered to act as mock patients during our training.
One survivor said she came down with the virus while working as a physician assistant at a hospital. Unaware of the disease, she was working without the necessary protective equipment.
She was immediately put in isolation and tested positive for Ebola.
She recalled crying hysterically upon hearing her diagnosis and painfully calling her only daughter. She was moved to an Ebola Treatment Unit and kept in touch with her daughter through text messages.
She developed bedsores, was very weak, and lacked any appetite. She said more medical staff from her hospital arrived in the ETU every day with symptoms, and she told us that "people died in the morning, people died in the evening," sometimes in the bed beside hers.
Her story is one of many that can be heard here.
These are the people that we are here to serve.
I am now in Buchanan, a city several hours outside of Monrovia, where I will be stationed for the rest of my stay here. I will keep in touch.