Nurse Documents Ebola Sorrow
30 December 2014, 17:00
Pauline Cafferkey, who has been a nurse for 16 years, was deployed to Sierra Leone last month as part of a 30-strong team of volunteers.
She is being treated in the Royal Free Hospital in north London after being diagnosed with the disease following her return to the UK on Sunday.
In a moving diary for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper she described the agony of treating a young boy who lost his mother, and then finding out he had also lost his father and sister.
Ms Cafferkey, 39, from Glasgow, lived alongside 14 other volunteers in a ''wee shack on the beach'' and passed by ''a small mangrove with crocodiles every day, not your average walk to work''.
At the Ebola Treatment Centre where she worked in the country's capital, Freetown, patients were treated in the infective ''Red Zone'', while the area around it was the safe ''Green Zone''.
She wrote: ''Bizarrely we find ourselves saying 'good luck' to our colleagues prior to entering the Red Zone, a sobering reminder of what we are doing.''
Despite becoming ill herself, Ms Cafferkey described how the work became a normal part of he life, invading her dreams and becoming ''all-consuming''. She said: ''My nice community-nursing job in Blantyre is far removed from this but at the moment this seems a lot more real.''
The protective suits the volunteers wore were ''horrendous'', she said. They took 20 minutes to put on and were unbearably hot, but ''on the up side, I feel very well protected''.
She wrote in Scotland on Sunday: ''I feel sorry for the poor patients who have these alien-type people caring for them. Especially so for the young children, who are not only very sick but have these strange creatures with only their eyes visible trying to make them drink and take medications.''
One particularly traumatic experience came when she comforted a young boy who lost his mother, leaving him an orphan after his father also died.
She wrote: ''I tried to console him, and he said he has a sister who also came to the treatment centre with him and his mother, but he did not know where she was. A young girl had died that morning. I could not be one hundred per cent sure that it was his sister, so I wasn't able to offer him any news. I took him back to his ward and gave him a drink.
''On leaving the Red Zone I checked the notes and confirmed that the girl who died that morning was his sister. His mother had seen her daughter die in the bed across from her that morning and she died a few hours later...
''The sad thing is that this is a regular occurrence and we see and hear of whole families being wiped out by this awful disease.''
In her final diary piece for Scotland on Sunday, Ms Cafferkey said there was ''no sign of anything Christmassy'' in the country after the government banned the festivity and closed schools.
And in a now-poignant entry, she described her joy at seeing survivors being discharged after getting the all-clear - them receiving their last chlorine shower, the ''happy wash'', and then being greeted by ''local staff singing and dancing in celebration''.
She wrote: ''I see the discharge process as a very important part of letting the survivor know how special they are, and it helps in building community confidence.
''Not only that, but it does wonders for staff morale, as some of the things we see inside the gates are very unpleasant. It helps us remember the good work we are doing and the reason we are all here.''