• kwankew

The Hiccoughs

It seemed all hell broke loose last evening when we arrived for the night shift. One of our night duty nurses was asked to switch to day leaving us one person short. The census soared to 28 patients with six patients brought in by our own ambulance and close to the changing of the shift, Pheebe Hospital ambulance brought in another seven patients consisting of two families: two mothers with young children, one of the babies was moribund.


Peter, a disoriented 49-year-old man, looking much older than his age had the deer in the headlight expression, a mixture of anxiety, fear and panic in his eyes. We pushed a liter of fluid into him. He had the hiccoughs. Quite a number of Ebola-stricken patients in the ETU have the hiccoughs, sometimes they seem to be harbinger of the patients’ demise, a very curious phenomenon.


A nurse and I rounded again in the early hours to check on the very sick patients. The baby Moses continued to be unresponsive and began to have bloody diarrhea. His mother looked on with despair, while two of her children slept soundly and with abandonment on the next bed. We pushed fluid through a small IV line in his leg using 10 cc syringes. Their father had died of Ebola.


In the Confirmed Ward, Siah finally breathed her last, she was gasping near the end of the day shift. Siah’s mother, Tewah, across the hall had asked a nurse how her daughter was doing, he replied that she was sleeping, a euphemism for this harsh time. I felt that perhaps she might really want to know and had a last chance to say her final farewell and even to touch her. But he felt that she was too frail and might cause a raucous with the wailing. When last we checked in the wee hours of the morning Tewah, the sixty-year-old woman, was so sound asleep we did not have the heart to wake her up and decided to have the psychosocial nurse to break the news to her instead. I learned later that Tewah saw her daughter the day before she died aided by the psychosocial nurse. She never visited her as she was under the impression that she was not to breach her isolation as when she was in the Suspected Ward. She did not wish to see her after she passed.


The muezzin chanted and prayed in the early morning while the cock crowed. Dawn slowly broke through the thick fog while Siah “slept” in her bed with one arm across her chest.

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