Search

Former Whittington Hospital doctor describes first shift in Ebola-struck Sierra Leone

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 August 2014 | UPDATED: 13:31 12 August 2014

Former Whittington doctor Benjamin Black

Former Whittington doctor Benjamin Black

Archant

Benjamin Black is a UK obstetrician who swapped his job at the Whittington Hospital to work for medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Sierra Leone.

Benjamin Black Benjamin Black

The west African country is in the grip of an Ebola outbreak. He describes his first 24-hour shift:

The largest recorded epidemic of Ebola is under way, and the direction of spread has put our clinic directly on course for collision.

Ebola remains a very feared disease, with good reason. The disease is contagious, difficult to initially diagnose and deadly to most of those infected. Ebola is not a disease I had ever really given much thought to, firstly because until this outbreak it had been restricted to pockets in remote areas and usually burned itself out, and secondly because as an obstetrician I had not expected it to be too much my concern. I was wrong.

The day itself started pretty routinely; after my ward rounds I waited for my patients to arrive.

The first was a 40-year-old woman who was 16 weeks pregnant and had been bleeding heavily for three days.

She was barely conscious and moaning in a language that the nurses could not understand. Her heart was racing, her blood pressure was through the floor, and she had a burning temperature.

We are on alert for Ebola, so take any patients with bleeding and fever very seriously. Once I had donned all the protective gear I approached her, peering through my goggles. She was clearly miscarrying. We began giving her treatment – luckily there is blood in the bank.

Later in the afternoon, I get a call, more patients have arrived.

One is from the same town as the woman I admitted earlier with bleeding and fever.

The more questions we asked, the more suspicious it sounded.

The woman from earlier was resuscitated now and able to speak good English. She had also attended funerals and prepared the bodies – something that is very risky.

She reported seeing many people die in her village but couldn’t say from what. And so my first shift also brought the first two suspected Ebola cases.

We open up the isolation unit and put the space suits on.

The heat inside is incredible, within minutes I could feel sweat dribbling down all my limbs.

I expected one of us to faint at any point. We carry our patient into the isolation unit and get her comfortable.

Before leaving we are sprayed with chlorine and then we finally take off our protective gear.

I could not believe this was my first shift.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch who played in the women’s orchestra at Auschwitz will join other survivors at an event to commemorate this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day at JW3, the London Jewish Cultural Centre,in Hampstead.

Yesterday, 10:16

Students from Portland Place School have demonstrated their support for anti-bullying by winning first place in the ‘odd socks day challenge’.

On Monday January 15, the BBC featured the enforcement of council tax in its Inside Out London programme.

January is well underway but it’s not too late to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Gazette readers this week.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has called for the dismissal of Inner North London’s senior coroner Mary Hassell after a “deeply disappointing” meeting with community leaders to discuss her refusal to respect Jewish burial requirements.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, has added his voice to the calls for the resignation of Inner North London coroner Mary Hassell.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dinny Hall has designed women’s jewellery for more than 30 years. Described as a ‘little British Tiffany’, she lives in West Hampstead.

PROMOTED CONTENT

For people who suffer with feet problems, it is often difficult to find footwear that is both comfortable and stylish. There is a shop in the West End dedicated to changing that.

Toni Krok, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007, has set up a charity to help people living with the condition and their families adjust to the challenges it brings.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now