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

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

Cllr Theo Blackwell, Camden's Chief of Finance, says Camden will lose out to local authorities in the wealthy home counties on a £300 government 'Superfund@ designed to soften the impact of the cuts

Camden Labour say they are set to lose out on a £300 million government “superfund” designed to soften the impact of the cuts, whilst local authorities in the leafy home counties will benefit the most.

Police are investigating attempted child abductions

A man will appear in court following allegations that he approached a number of schoolchildren in Hornsey and attempted to convince them he was a police officer.

Dr Aggarwal giving Chloe tips on delivering babies

In the midst of the contract dispute Ham&High reporter, Chloe Chaplain, spent two days shadowing junior doctors at the Whittington Hospital.

Jeffery Mann died in September last year

Friends of a man who took his own life after being told the mental health support he received would be withdrawn told Camden Council this week they feel ignored and fearful for their future.

14:03
An air ambulance landed in Fortune Green after reports a man was hit by a vehicle in Finchley Road. Picture: Harvey Lee Sutton

A man has been taken to hospital with a head injury after being hit by a vehicle in Finchley Road this afternoon.

13:27
Edmond Fenton cleared of fraud

A former television executive was today found not guilty of “pillaging” more than £400,000 from the bank accounts of his 100-year-old cousin and selling her house without her consent.

Crouch End Hill Food & Wine following stabbing

A mother has thanked her Crouch End customers for their “unbelievable” support after her son was stabbed during an attempted robbery at their family-owned store.

Yesterday, 17:25
Striking junior doctors outside the Royal Free Hospital during a national day of action 10.02.16.

Junior doctors protested on the picket lines of the Whittington and Royal Free hospitals today after staging a second walk-out.

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Surface Pro 4

Technology is ever evolving. We are constantly being shown new technology that is innovative, revolutionary and designed to make life easier for us all. Gone are the days of dial up modems and computers so large you needed half a room to store it. We are in the age of smooth, small and sleek. Companies are all trying their best to create technology that is easy to transport and guaranteed to be user friendly.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe