Nurse Home After Fighting Off Ebola

25 January 2015, 09:14 | Updated: 25 January 2015, 09:17

A nurse who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone is recuperating at home after being declared free of the virus.

Pauline Cafferkey said she is ''happy to be alive'' and thanked staff at the Royal Free Hospital in London who she said saved her life.

Ms Cafferkey was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Glasgow and was initially admitted to the city's Gartnavel Hospital on December 29, then transferred to the Royal Free the following day.

The 39-year-old was critically ill for a time and praised the infectious diseases team who cared for her, led by Dr Michael Jacobs.

She told Scotland on Sunday: ''I am just happy to be alive.

''Thanks to Dr Mike and his amazing team of doctors, the matron, the nurses and all the other people that I didn't meet working behind the scenes to keep things going.

''They were always very reassuring and I knew I was in the best hands - they saved my life.''

The nurse, from Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire, had volunteered with Save The Children at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town before returning to the UK.

She flew back to the UK via Casablanca in Morocco. Her temperature was tested seven times before she flew from Heathrow to Glasgow and she was cleared to travel.

Ms Cafferkey said she initially thought she might have a urine infection when she returned from Sierra Leone, and did not feel unwell until she went to bed that evening.

She later became feverish and followed advice given to her at Heathrow to contact local services.

She was admitted to an isolation facility at the Brownlee unit in Gartnavel Hospital at 8am on December 29.

After a blood sample tested positive for Ebola, she was transferred in a military plane to the Royal Free Hospital by 8am on December 30.

While in hospital she was treated with convalescent plasma taken from the blood of recovered European patients and the experimental anti-viral drug ZMabb, which is not the same as ZMapp, which was used to treat the British nurse William Pooley.

Ms Cafferkey said she has ''no idea'' how she caught the virus, which has killed more than 8,000 people in West Africa.

She is now rebuilding her strength and can walk for short amounts of time.

The community health visitor nurse told the newspaper: ''I just want to get back to normal, get my strength back as I've lost a lot of weight and eventually returning to work, obviously that's going to take some time. I've got a great job, I'm working with babies under the age of five.

``I'll be having a break from aid work and I've no plans to return to it at the moment, but who knows in the future?''

Ms Cafferkey said she had lost a week of her life during her illness and is now looking forward to seeing friends and family and going for a walk on the beach when she is strong enough.

The Royal Free Hospital has the UK's only HLIU, which is run by a dedicated team of medical staff.

Dr Jacobs said: ``We are delighted that Pauline has recovered and is now well enough to go home. I am very proud of the staff who have been caring for her. It is because of the skill and hard work of the entire team that she is now able to go home.''

Save The Children has launched an investigation into how Ms Cafferkey was infected but admits it may never establish the exact circumstances.

Politicians and officials have welcomed the news of her recovery.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: ``I am delighted to hear that Pauline Cafferkey has now been discharged from hospital.

''Ebola is a terrible disease, and the fact that she has made this recovery is a tremendous tribute to the work of the NHS staff who have been committed to her care over the last few weeks. Like all her fellow volunteer health workers she has shown tremendous bravery in going to west Africa to help tackle the Ebola outbreak.

''I hope that she will now be given the time and space she needs to recuperate after her illness.''

Save The Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said: ''We are delighted for Pauline Cafferkey and her family that she has fully recovered from Ebola. Pauline is a dedicated humanitarian who worked tirelessly and selflessly in the fight against Ebola.

''Despite the risks to her own safety, she volunteered to use her nursing skills to help save lives and treat those in dire need in Sierra Leone. The bravery of Pauline and everyone who has worked to defeat Ebola makes us even more determined to redouble our efforts to beat the disease.''