It immediately struck me that two of the foremost American medical professionals fighting Ebola in Africa as quoted in The New York Times were Dr. Sean Casey of the International Medical Corps, and nurse Bridget Anne Mulrooney of the same organization
It has long been a belief of mine that the Irish contribution to the caring professions – nursing, doctors, firemen, police, teachers – is out of all proportion to their percentage of the population.
Casey gave a remarkable interview to Reddit in which he outlined the desperate situation in Liberia.
He says, “Ebola is almost the only thing anyone is talking about here. I went to pick up a 12-year-old patient on Monday and spoke to him briefly before he boarded the ambulance. An hour later he was dead and the next day I saw his body being carried away for burial. The suffering is definitely difficult to see, but it also inspires us to do more, and to keep up the fight.
“My day starts at around 6 a.m. and ends at around midnight. I think there are lots of untold stories about the very brave health workers here. They're the real first responders, and they're continuing to work despite the fear and risk. One of our nurses saw six of her colleagues die from Ebola, but she's continuing to fight the disease by working with International Medical Corps at the Bong Ebola Treatment Unit.”
His fellow medical colleague Nurse Mulrooney says, “I was working as a travel nurse at a children’s hospital in California when I got an email from International Medical Corps asking if I was interested in deploying to Liberia to help fight Ebola. I wanted to go immediately ...
“I have now been at the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) for two weeks and what an incredible experience it has been.
This week, I am on the night shift so my working day starts at 7 p.m. Tonight, we have 12 patients in the unit who are confirmed as having the Ebola virus.
“One of the patients is a nine-year-old girl who came with her mother when they were both sick. Her mum tested negative for Ebola, but unfortunately the girl tested positive. Her mother opted to go home, leaving her daughter behind. She is very weak and really scared now that she is here all alone, so I am going to spend some extra time with her tonight, feeding her to try to get her strength back up.
“Our personal protective equipment suits get really hot. We spend up to two hours at a time in the ETU with the patients, which is about the longest you can comfortably remain inside the suits without a break.
“Four new patients arrived at around midnight in ambulances. Tonight we saw a father and two sons: the dad is really very sick, throwing up every few minutes. We gave him and the other patients plenty of fluids and medicine to help with the vomiting and then we took the blood test that would confirm whether or not they had the Ebola virus.
“The sun comes up around 6 a.m., and the team on the nightshift often get together to watch it. Our Liberian colleagues will start singing and we will have a dance around for a few minutes. It’s a small thing but after a long night, when you have had patients die, it is a very emotional time.
“Ebola is mean. It’s harsh and it can tear families apart one by one, or take them all out together. We recently had a teenage girl bleed to death over two days. Walking into a room that is covered in blood, finding a semi-conscious girl face down on a bed pooling with barely congealed blood is hard. She half smiled and took some medicines. I won’t forget her smile. Nor her soft moans as her body was fading away.
“I have obviously had a hard few days and I am sorry for being graphic. But this is what it really is like being in Liberia during Ebola.”
These are real heroes.