Search

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

13:00 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 BlackBenjamin 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

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 News Stories

Yesterday, 13:00
Camden families have been defying new government rules and taking their children on holidays during school term time. Picture: PA File.

Dozens of Camden families have defied new government rules banning pupils from going on holiday during school term time, new figures reveal.

Yesterday, 16:29
A view of the proposed development from Maygrove Peace park

The final plans for what would be one of West Hampstead’s tallest towers have been made available to the public after Camden Council submitted the planning application.

Yesterday, 16:00
Pupils dress up for Highgate Primary School's nativity play. Picture: Nigel Sutton

A primary school put its own spin on a traditional nativity play by recruiting three Marys, three Josephs and a talking donkey.

Yesterday, 15:00
La Sainte Union pupils sing Christmas carols. Picture: Dieter Perry

Schoolgirls raised their voices in song to treat a church congregation to Christmas carols at a festive concert.

Most read news

And they have a role to play in saving their species.

Twinkle, twinkle you little stars – thanks for making your homes so festive.

Offers for university places are at a record high.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition