Death as a Fallen Autumn Leaf
The Bong ETU is also a training ground for many healthcare workers from different NGOs who come for a few days for hands-on experience so I have been switched from night shift to a so-called Swing-Shift, a 9 am to 9 pm to accommodate them. This puts me out of kilter for a little bit given the fact that I miss sign-out in the morning. Almost all the volunteered healthcare personnel stay for 4 weeks; I would be the first physician who would be here the longest.
Daily, DEATH visits the ETU with unfettered tenacity.
Simon was buried yesterday, his baby was tested negative and sent home with relatives but his wife remained in the Suspected Ward awaiting her result which later came back negative. By report she was devastated, grieving the loss of her husband. Winner, a 6 year-old- girl tested positive and she was separated from her mother and sister and being cared for by Bendu, a recovering Ebola patient in the ETU. It must be very difficult for Winner to leave her mother as she was clinging to her on the night of admission while an IV was placed in her arm, having been vomiting and stooling. Femata, another recovering Ebola patient now also took on the responsibility of taking care of Christine and Solomon, a new phenomenon. Three members of a family of four that came two nights ago into the Suspected Ward were discharged with negative Ebola tests.
Varney and Momoh, the two other critically ill patients when I was last on night shift also passed on.
During my training as an Infectious Disease doctor, I read about viral hemorrhagic fever: Ebola, Marburg and Lassa, Ebola being the deadliest. I thought that since the viruses caused outbreaks in Africa, it would be highly unlikely that I would ever see a case of Ebola infection in my lifetime. I guess I was dead wrong.
A torrential rain came down during the ETU round, my partner left me alone which is against protocol. I was asked to come out to doff which I thought was not such a good idea as the wind and rain whipped through the doffing staging area and very likely blowing whatever contaminant fluids all over my exposed skin. But the staff was quite insistent so there I was being showered on by both chlorine washes and God knows whatever else!
When I left Boston, the autumn leaves were just turning colors. With each rain and wind, more leaves were separated from their branches, falling or spiraling slowly; spelling the end of their tenure for the year. The very sick Ebola patients are like the autumn leaves, clinging desperately to life but only for a few days, eventually they lose their fight and let go, falling and falling ever so sorrowfully into a long sleep.