Via The Guardian: Doctors on the Ebola frontline: 'You can see the fear when they look at us'. Excerpt:
The clinical work is hard. Monia Sayah is a nurse who has worked full-time for Doctors Without Borders since 2012. Originally from France, she now lives in Brooklyn. She told the Guardian that doctors and nurses work 15 or 16 hours every day, seven days a week.
When in the treatment facility they wear thick protective yellow impermeable suits, rubber boots and respirator masks, two pairs of rubber gloves, thick goggles and rubber full-length aprons to protect them from the disease.
In the warm, humid climate, this gets extremely hot. One day, Fischer took a thermometer with him in his pocket to measure the temperature in his suit; it was 115 degrees. Dehydration or fainting from heat exhaustion are ever-present dangers; in a day, one person can lose as much as eight litres in sweat. Sayah said that when they de-robe, workers are drenched “like somebody’s poured a bucket of water on us”.
Everyone has their own ways of coping. One group of hygienists – responsible for maintaining and applying the Personal Protective Equipment suits, commonly just called “PPEs” – were on a Celine Dion kick which, Fischer told friends, required “its own coping strategy”.
Within the high-risk zone, the medical staff have protocols much like divers. “You make sure the other one is not going to make a mistake, or about to faint, or about to trip on something,” said Sayah. “And you keep track of how long you stay inside.”
“We’re totally dependent on each other,” [Dr. William] Fischer agreed. He said that the bravery and support from the patients inside the facility were also important: “The smiles, the thumbs-up.” He recalls one older patient doing callisthenics to show he was getting better. “That was an incredibly moving experience,” Fischer said. “That meant the world to me.”
The American and international personnel are working alongside dedicated local doctors and staff. Fischer said the pressure-cooker environment brought people together. “There’s true friendships that have developed between us and local physicians,” he said. He said he is in touch regularly with people in Guinea by phone and email.
Sayah, who returned from her latest tour of duty in Guinea last week, is also in frequent contact with friends back in Guéckédou. “When you’re in a bad place, you really need to talk to someone who’s going through the same thing,” she said. “Someone who has lived it. We get very close.”
She plans to return as soon as she feels rested – in Brooklyn, while on leave, she fills her days with yoga and meditation to get her mind and body ready to go back.