Dr Nathalie reports from Liberia

29th October 2014

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As thousands more of people are expected to catch the deadly Ebola virus in the next few months, Cardiff-based doctor, Nathalie MacDermott returned to Liberia to establish Ebola Care Centres (ECCs) within local communities.

Returning to Liberia to Fight Ebola

Dr Nathalie MacDermott returns to Liberia as Samaritan’s Purse aggressively fights the Ebola outbreak by constructing life-saving Community Care Centres.

What was your experience when you went to Liberia last time?

The last time I was in Liberia the situation was extremely challenging with an epidemic which was spiralling out of control before our eyes. We were desperately trying to keep up with the number of cases arriving at the two Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) we were running in Foya and Monrovia. The scale of the situation was becoming unmanageable and we did not have enough staff to optimally care for our patients.  There was also a lot of civil unrest. Then unfortunately two of our colleagues contracted Ebola and our priority became caring for them and ensuring they were safely evacuated. This situation and the ongoing civil unrest resulted in the evacuation of all SP international staff. This was difficult because we felt that we were leaving the Liberian people at their time of greatest need knowing things were only going to get worse and they have worsened far more than we imagined at that time and far more rapidly.

Why have you chosen to return to Liberia?

I am returning because I cannot watch what is happening in Liberia and not act knowing I have a skill set that might help, even if only in a small way.  Since I left I knew God wanted me to return and it has been a burden I have carried since my return to the UK.  I trained as a doctor to help those in need and those who are suffering, I cannot watch the level of suffering in Liberia and not act.

What will you be doing there?

While in Liberia I will be helping to coordinate establishment of Ebola care centres (ECCs) within local communities as well as enhancing referral pathways to try and help contain the spread of disease. ECCs are smaller community based facilities allowing care in the local community, enabling isolation of cases of EVD whilst providing care for them on a smaller scale. The hope is this will provide more isolation beds with less distance to travel, near to family members but ensuring cases are not further cross contaminating relatives and neighbours. For those families unable to reach ECCs we will be implementing a home based care initiative where through education and provision of modified personal protective equipment we will enable family members to care for their loved ones in their homes until they can be transported to an ECC or ETU, whilst hopefully protecting the caregiver from further exposure to the virus and thus reducing transmission in the home. I will also be the physician to the Samaritan’s Purse team caring for any unwell local or international staff members and developing comprehensive evacuation procedures should a staff member contract EVD.

What do you hope your efforts will achieve?

I hope that during my time in Liberia the efforts of Samaritan’s Purse and other actors working to halt the epidemic will show a significant impact in reducing the spread of the disease. I hope that by the end of the 5 months I will be based there the epidemic will be deemed to be under control and the number of new cases will be decreasing weekly as opposed to the current situation where the spread of the disease is escalating uncontrollably. I also hope that on an individual level I am able to bring some peace and comfort to those suffering with EVD and their family members.

What are your personal feelings about returning?

I consider it an honour and a privilege to be able to serve the Liberian people during this time of great need. Whilst I am somewhat apprehensive given the current situation I am also excited to be a part of this effort and am looking forward to seeing the fruits of the hard work we will put in as a team in the coming months, believing that our work will not be fruitless and that we will see this epidemic come under control.

How can people be praying for you?

Please pray for protection, peace and strength for the entire Samaritan’s Purse team as well as myself, but also that this epidemic would come to an end rapidly and that the people of Liberia would be able to find restoration following this horrendous time.

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