At the height of the Ebola outbreak, Dr. Emily Bayne deployed to Sierra Leone in December 2014 as International Medical Corps prepared to open an Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) near the town of Makeni. Now, as the dust settles on the outbreak and the ETC prepares to close, Dr. Bayne traveled back to Sierra Leone with a UK news outlet to reflect on her work. The following blog and news piece are from this trip.
Last week I was back in my regular job working in the Emergency Department of a British hospital; today I am sitting in the International Medical Corps Ebola Treatment Center in Makeni, Sierra Leone. I am privileged to have the opportunity to visit as Sierra Leone approaches 42 days free of Ebola and the team at Makeni can begin the decommissioning process.
This year has been an incredible journey. I first arrived here with International Medical Corps at the beginning of December to a newly built Ebola Treatment Centre. We spent our first two weeks involved in everything from unloading boxes to training the staff in order to be ready to receive our first patients.
I was here for Christmas and have fond memories of singing carols by candlelight at the ETC. We hoped the sound would drift into the wards and provide some comfort to our patients.
As the months went by I witnessed much suffering and sadness. I comforted family members as they watched their loved ones dying. I fought the unimaginable heat of our personal protective equipment as I tried to provide what treatment and care I could for patients. I watched a grandfather bury his 4-year-old grand-daughter; a service over in a matter of seconds as a tiny white bag was lowered into the dirt.
There were moments of joy among the sadness. I witnessed the first handprint on our survivor wall and I danced and sang through many discharge ceremonies. I was privileged to see our survivor wall grow as handprints were added over the weeks and months.
Despite everything that has happened here, I have seen unimaginable resilience and kindness. All of the work I have done has been with a truly inspiring team of dedicated national and international staff; all striving to help those affected by Ebola. I have seen all the staff grow in confidence, with the sharing of knowledge and training. The staff here have become a second family to me and the opportunity to surprise them with a visit was truly wonderful.
As I sit here in the medical tent, the ETC is very quiet with no patients. They are planning to close the doors for the last time on November 7th and then the decommissioning process will begin. This is an emotional time: the happiness to have come so far in the fight against Ebola, tinged with sadness for those we have not managed to save. The staff here will be moving on to new jobs and indeed there is a great deal of work to do to rebuild and improve the health care system in Sierra Leone.
One of the saddest things as we aim for 42 days Ebola free is the number of people dying from other causes, with limited access to health care. I hope that new capacity building projects will begin here in Sierra Leone and continue the fantastic work that is already under way.