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  • Writer's picturekwankew

The Untouchables

The Survival Wall

Yesterday the long-awaiting departure of Naomi and her daughter, Josephine, from the ETU finally took place, free of the infection at last. A survival wall is now set up with the patients painting their hands and writing their initials on them as they leave. A small triumph.

Baby Moses died and his sister, Fatu, now is the baby to Krubo as she moved to share her mother’s bed curling next to her. Krubo looked quietly sad, resigned to the fact she lost her baby forever.

Mother Fatu, mother of baby Jackson who is Ebola free started to have bloody diarrhea. Her daughter has the “hot body” and “runny stomach”, looking dazed from her illness.

The chlorine stopped flowing again even earlier during our shift last night. This time the valve to the back-up tank was shut off. We had to delay our rounds for an hour until it was turned on again for fear we did not have enough chlorine for doffing.

Peter, our other sick patient asked for water in the wee hours of the morning as the PA and I made our second round. Despite his skinny frame it took a behemoth effort on my part to help him sit up. He leaned against my arms with full confidence that I was able to fully support him. He gulped down a whole 500 cc bottle of water very slowly as we gave him another half a liter of Ringer’s Lactate through his IV. Then he was tucked into bed.

There are now only two physicians left besides the Medical Director as some have completed their stints. I wanted to see how the ambulance crew brings in their patients from the villages. As no physician can be spared from the rounds of duty, the only way for me to do that is to go on my switch day from night to day. So after a night shift I went with the ambulance to Kakata, Margibi, two and a half hours away to pick up some patients.

The District Council of the Ministry of Health first makes contact with the sick patients in the village and if they live far away they are brought via ambulance to CH Reniee Hospital, a hospital that lost over 20 personnel through Ebola. There our ambulances pick up the patients from the isolation unit. We traveled with four of ambulances in case there would be more patients to be picked up. However this being the Liberian Thanksgiving Holiday, there were only two patients to be transferred from the hospital ambulance to ours. These patients were able to walk and they climbed up the ambulance on their own without the ambulance crew having to don full PPE. Everyone else stood a few feet from them. I could only imagine the fear and the stigma the patients must have felt while they were being watched by other villagers, being labeled as potentially Ebola-stricken: the untouchables of the modern era.

Patient Transfer to ETU Ambulance

The ambulances came back to the ETU earlier than usual. By then I had been on for over twenty hours. Tomorrow I am back to day shift after four straight nights; my body is battle-scarred with bites from mosquitoes and blisters from acid exuding from smacking the Nairobi flies troubling me during the night.

Nairobi Fly

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