Fighting Ebola: Marc’s Sierra Leone Diary – Part 4
Alder Hey Lab Technician Marc Seddon is in Africa spending five weeks working in a clinic laboratory testing samples from patients, to help in the fight against Ebola.
Marc is blogging to share his experience during his visit: here are the latest extracts from his diary:
It’s been about a week since I last blogged, and in that time it has calmed down in terms of the number of Ebola positive patients that we have been admitting. But also, many of the positive Ebola patients have died. At one point last week we had a full ward of over 30 patients and since talking to medics this week I think we have about 11 now. It’s a really sorry state for this country to be in, and this was all caused by one case which I’ve mentioned in previous blogs. But in better news we are hopeful of two survivors being released this week, we all have our fingers crossed!
One day during the week, I asked if there was a possibility of going to see the burial ground. For me, it was important to see this, and to witness the sheer mass of destruction that this virus has caused.
So I got the chance to go along with two other lab staff from my team. We barely spoke a word to each other whilst there. The first thing I saw was a freshly dug empty grave, awaiting the wash team to turn up in an ambulance with another body, wrapped in a white sheet and laid to rest. I then wandered through the pathway and came to the section where they’d buried babies and children, just tiny mounds of earth, and I was surprised how fresh the soil still was. At the head of each grave was a plaque with the persons name, date they died, and a number.
After a few moments I walked towards more graves, the adults, which were the same layout. One of the graves I first laid eyes on was that of a 52 year old who had died on Christmas Day. The fact that it was Christmas Day didn’t really hit me that hard as I know they probably wouldn’t have been celebrating anyway, but for me it was the fact that I knew exactly where I was on that date, and this person had died. I was sat at a table eating Xmas dinner with my loved ones, and this poor guy had died, probably in unbearable pain at the hands of this virus. That just didn’t sit well with me at all. I’d seen enough and knew I’d made the right decision in coming to work in West Africa, not that I needed any confirmation.
We got back in the van to come back to the hotel, and as we drove off, three ambulances went past, heading towards the burial ground. I was asked if we’d like to turn round and go and see a burial, but we unanimously agreed we didn’t need to see that, and that it was a bit disrespectful to any family members or friends who may have been there.
So as far as things in the lab are concerned, we’re getting through the work load comfortably and getting results out as quick as we can. We’re not receiving as many samples as last week when the spike had hit, but we were expecting this to happen once things had settled down.
I have heard that an orphanage has been quarantine’d and that there is a chance we may receive samples from this region, I’m really hopeful that this won’t happens as I imagine it would be pretty hard to control the contact tracing. A lot of the workers there are from the community and this could spread rapidly. But I will keep you updated when I can on the situation.
Also, thank you for everybody’s kind words on the blog, it’s very much appreciated. I hope I’ve given you an insight to what it’s like out here so far and hopefully there is still a few more things to say before the 5 weeks are up!