Via The Telegraph: 'I knew death was imminent': nurse Pauline Cafferkey on surviving Ebola. Cafferkey survived both her initial case of Ebola and a relapse. Then came the second relapse. Excerpt:
Cafferkey’s recovery was remarkable. Within months she was back at work, honoured with a Pride of Britain Award and invited to Downing Street. But her good health and happiness were short lived. In October 2015, a blinding headache heralded further symptoms that suggested meningitis. But the doctors who saw her at hospital in Glasgow suspected the Ebola virus had returned.
This was uncharted territory: no known survivor of Ebola had experienced such a relapse ten months after the original infection. It is thought Pauline’s initial infection was so severe, a remnant of the virus had lingered in her spinal fluid, triggering meningitis.
Back in the tent and transferred back to the Royal Free, Cafferkey was sicker than ever before.
“This was worse than Ebola because of the swelling in my brain. It was just horrendous. I said to one of the doctors ‘Just drill a hole in my head’ - just to relieve the pressure. I would cry until I wanted to scream.”
Nurses put their hands through the medical gloves sealed to the tent to stroke her hair. Critically ill and delirious, Cafferkey’s mind would play tricks on her. “I had crazy hallucinations: there were a bunch of Sierra Leoneons (sic) and they also had Ebola, but they were outside the tent, and I was saying to the nurse ‘treat them, treat them’. Subconsciously, I must have had a degree of guilt [as to] why I got world class care, and they didn’t.”
As Cafferkey neared death again, virologists worked around the clock to determine that it was the same strain of the virus, which allowed them to use the same vaccines as before.
The treatment worked, but this time recovery has been slower, more painful - the lasting effects of the meningitis still evident. Cafferkey walks with a slight limp and sometimes has trouble with short memory loss, back pain and tinnitus.
But she knows how perilously close she came to adding to that shocking number of 11,000, who died in the epidemic - and speaks movingly of her gratitude for the specialist treatment her own patients could only have dreamed of.
Three months since her last admission to the Royal Free, doctors emphasise it’s extremely unlikely she will ever become unwell with Ebola again and poses no risk to the general public.
Remarkably, she has no regrets about the decision to go to Sierra Leone: “There is nothing more rewarding than giving” she tells me. “Nothing.”
“I hope that the time will come soon, where I’m not that ‘Ebola Nurse’ - where I’m just myself again. I just hope it hurries up.”