“I found myself hesitant as I stood in front of the boarding gate of my last connecting flight – the flight that would take me into the heart of the Ebola outbreak.” Kelly Suter (MSN, RN) is a volunteer nurse with International Medical Corps.
When she decided last fall to join in the fight against Ebola Suter found herself, for the first time in her life, frightened about the work she was about to do. She recalls, “As my mind spun, a nearby TV screen began showing images of Ebola victims. As quickly as my fear had come, it disappeared and determination took its place. I had overcome one of my greatest obstacles: myself.”
Ms. Suter recounts her experience, triumphs and tragedies alike, in an article from nurse.com and letters she sent to International Medical Corps. In an Ebola Treatment Unit in the tropical Liberian forest, she confronted her obstacles head-on. Communicating through language barriers, conveying positivity and hope in the face of death, and facing the anxiety and stress of the exhaustive protective gear required to work with the afflicted were personal accomplishments that helped her move forward.
Among the triumphs in her work, in her own words:
“Recently, Korto, an Ebola survivor, and her 3-month-old daughter Josephine came to the unit by ambulance. Josephine had diarrhea and a fever and began vomiting only hours after Korto was discharged. Josephine tested positive for Ebola and grew weak and dehydrated quickly. Each time an IV had to be restarted, she fought a little less. Eventually, we had to hold her down and shave off half of her beautiful…hair to place a scalp IV. While not a difficult or uncommon task when caring for babies, that moment carried with it a sense of defeat. Despite all, Josephine continued to deteriorate.
After days of expecting Josephine to pass away her symptoms suddenly began to disappear. Josephine gradually regained her strength until she was once again a chubby, happy baby. Josephine is one of the youngest survivors of Ebola.”
Korto, while watching over her daughter’s battle with the disease, proved to be a great strength to others at the hospital. In particular she was the only person who could reach a young mother, Rachel, who was diagnosed with Ebola when she was 32 weeks pregnant. Rachel was in anguish, refusing treatment in her despair. Korto was able to share her experiences and gently convince Rachel to enter the health facility for treatment.
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We are in awe of all brave volunteers whether they are survivors, local health workers or travel from far distances. Each puts themselves in formidable situations for the benefit of others – their fortitude and life-saving work has not gone unnoticed. The collaboration of monumental local efforts and international support is helping to end this crisis – but it’s not completely over yet. Please explore the incredible work of our partner International Medical Corps.
Photos of Kelly Suter and Korto with Josephine courtesy of International Medical Corps