A reporter from Providence, RI has contracted the Ebola virus. Scary stuff. Rhode Island has the largest Liberian population in the country, per capita. How quickly it could happen; a person ill, they call 911, we respond, enter their home, and begin treatment.
“I don’t feel well.”
“Have you been throwing up, any abdominal pain?”
“Yes, that, a fever and headache.”
“Sounds like the flu, can you walk?”
The patient lies on the stretcher, sweating. His vital signs are okay, nothing remarkable except the fever of 102. He’s a pleasant man, dark skin, lyrical way of speaking common to persons recently immigrated from West Africa.
West Africa? Wait a minute here!
Where’s my mask? In the compartment.
Gloves? Covered with sweat from the patient. Took them off and threw them in the trash. Got patient’s sweat on my hands in the process.
Ebola is here. Liberian citizens travel to and from their country often, and the access to health care there is abysmal at best. People are dying in their cars while waiting for a bed at one of the few health centers. Health care workers are ostracized by many Liberians, the fear of contracting the disease intensified by persistent rumors stating that the “Ebola People” are killing those infected.
Nobody will be looking out for the people who respond to 911 calls for help from people who do not understand just how sick they are, and if they do, do not care that they are contagious. Just because we work in a different environment than those in Africa, and have access to PPE, DECON and the CDC does not mean that we are more protected than the poor souls who are treating patients in West Africa.
All it takes is one patient and we will be just as dead as people who never had a chance. But we DO have a chance, and we need to step up our game, and pay attention to every detail during every call, and take care of ourselves.