Dispatch from Liberia: Support Remains Critical

At 7:30 in the morning there is pounding on the front door of our two-bedroom apartment, which doubles as our temporary Heart to Heart International – Liberia office.

James Rogers, a Liberian man who will head-up our security team at the ETU when it opens, is excited to report that he has rented another vehicle, a well traveled Toyota Land Cruiser that actually has a functioning air-conditioner, to make a four hour one-way-trip to Bong County to pick up Dr. Vega and return him to Monrovia.

In this nearly all-cash society, James is also needing more money so he can put gas in the dark green 4-wheel drive beast before he heads out. We go through a lot of cash on a weekly basis and in many cases need to pay for things in advance. The apartment, for example, is on a six month lease… all of it due up-front.

We are able to survive here right now only by the grace of our donors who have provided support in the first weeks of Operation Ebola. But even those resources are becoming stressed, and we need additional support.

After a few difficult weeks, things are starting to come together. Nurses and doctors are scheduled to join us in Liberia, and we are getting the “ground-game” organized to support the ETU. 

This is a team effort and our donors are critical members of this team. We thank you for supporting us and keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

-Jim

Touring Tappita

The HHI team, along with USAID workers, touring the town of Tappita in Nimba County. The ETU is to be built next to the hospital seen in the photo.

 

 

Dispatch from Liberia: Waking up in Ebola Land

Morning breaks muggy and warm with broken clouds signaling that the rainy season is slowly giving way to its dry season doppelgänger. Roosters crow incessantly below my second-story apartment bedroom window, ridiculing anyone who wants a few minutes of extra sleep on a Saturday morning. Life in Monrovia, Liberia is waking up to a new day in Ebola Land.

Dr. Vega in Bong Co, Liberia

HHI Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rene Vega visiting the IMC Ebola Treatment Unit in Bong County, Liberia.

 

It’s an important day for us as Dr. Rene Vega, our chief medical officer, has returned from a week of Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) training with one of our NGO partners, the International Medical Corps, at their Bong county site.  Dr. Vega will be taking a week break from the ETU and working with us in our Monrovia office. He will then return to Bong to gain even more experience in preparation of the opening of our own ETU in a few short weeks in Nimba county, eight hours of rough road from here.

Suiting up in PPE in Bong

International Medical Corps workers help a colleague suit up in PPE, personal protective equipment, inside the ETU in Bong County, Liberia.

 

We are looking forward to getting Rene’s input on the design of the ETU we will be operating. Nothing beats experience when it comes to improving the way the unit will be designed and built. Little details like how patients are brought into the ETU or even the width of a patient shower stall can be helpful in preventing unnecessary exposures and risks. Doctors with many years of training in human anatomy are suddenly being asked to become experts in Ebola treatment unit layouts.

Dr. Vega w IMC program officer

HHI Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rene Vega (left), meets with IMC program director at ETU in Bong County, Liberia.

 

Reports of the number of patients coming to existing ETU’s in Liberia are down suggesting to some that the epidemic may be waning. That is not what the experts believe, nor even the man-on-the-street in Monrovia.  Instead, it is widely thought that people have remained in their homes when showing signs of Ebola rather than heading for an ETU. They naturally fear isolation from their loved ones and the seemingly inhuman nature of being treated by people in body suits where only the medical worker’s eyes are visible, and that through goggles. Fear is palpable.

Staying at home has terrible implications for this disease since home caregivers, almost always members of the patients’ family, usually become the next victims. And so the disease continues, as yet unconfined.  More ETU’s will be built in both the cities and the countryside as this impoverished country seeks to eradicate a virus that is causing panic and fear to spread around the world.

-Jim