Shattered Lives in the Battleground of Ebola
The only remaining patient in the Suspected Ward moved into the Confirmed Ward after her Ebola test came back positive. She was the daughter of the pastor who died of Ebola before I came. In the late afternoon the usual time for the ambulances to bring in patients to triage, 15 more patients were admitted; a family; a grandfather, his daughter-in-law and her baby, and a woman with her two children. Simon’s wife and his three-year-old baby became ill and were admitted into the Suspected Ward, he had been in the Confirmed Ward for a few days now, gravely ill.
The ETU was plunged into total darkness. The generator stopped working. We searched for torch lights. I took this rare precious moment to gaze at the starry sky before power was restored. More stars appeared as my eyes were adjusting to the light.
When I first met tall and lanky Simon, he was alternatingly sitting in his ramrod fashion on the edge of the bed, eyes tightly shut and lips sealed or on the bucket commode legs shaking, struggling with diarrhea, still managed to keep his upright posture. He was vigorously hydrated. However early this morning, he was in extremis, eyes and lips still tightly shut, but his breathing was more labored. His neck was as stiff as a board. He drank eagerly when offered ORS. We tucked him in praying that his exit would be easy. All the while his eyes remained closed and he did not utter a word. At daybreak, across the orange netted fence someone inquired of a patient in the ETU about Simon, he thought Simon had passed away. At age 38, he left behind his wife and baby. In his dying hours he did not even have a fleeting moment to say good-bye to his loved ones or be touched by them.
Varney who had been in a tenuous state, hanged on tonight, took a drink of ORS and then juice. He continued to bleed from his gums and had bloody diarrhea.
Esther was 24, alternating between looking well and weak, finally succumbed to Ebola last night. Another life snuffed out prematurely.
Each time there was a death, the patients who were recovering from Ebola made a frantic dash to move as far away from the dead person. Solomon and Christine were moved to another room. Solomon was finally eating but Christine remained uninterested in food but did drink. The staff had tried to recruit the older recovering ladies to care for the young ones but they did not volunteer. I heard report that a mother deposited her nine-year-old in the ETU and did not return for her even after she recovered from Ebola. Ironically her name was Blessing.
The head of the ambulance team made daily rounds in the villages of the family members of patients in the ETU, doing a contact tracing of sort. That was one of the reasons why there were such a big number of admissions last night.
In the early morning hours, heavy rain came down sounding like galloping horses on the roof. It did not wake up the ER doctor who was snoring softly in a corner head leaning against a cabinet while the Kenyan nurse covered herself in surgical scrub sound asleep.
At the end of my second night shift, there were 30 patients, 15 each in each of the ward.
In the far western end of the ETU, smoke rose from the burning incinerator of infectious wastes, mingling with the morning mist as dawn broke, reminiscent of a scene in the aftermath of a battle-- the battle against Ebola.