7th February 2015

Richard came to collect me at 11am this morning to take me to the Waitangi Day celebrations.  Barefoot bowls in Coogee.  Richard explained that Waitangi Day was actually yesterday, February 6.  Unfortunately, he said we don’t get to take the day off here so Kea (who organise the festivities) just defer everything to a day that makes sense.

Waitangi Day is NZ’s national day somewhat like Australia Day.  Though from what Richard tells me, its far more fraught with conflict and is quite a somber affair.  It commemorates the signing of a Treaty between Maori and the British at Waitangi, a place in the Bay of Islands.

We had a fun afternoon having a few Kiwi beers, eating real ‘hangi’ food and listening to kiwi music all afternoon.  I even knew some of the songs.  Of course we had the obligatory debate over whether Crowded House was a Kiwi or Australian band.  We called a truce after about 20mins and declared a stalemate.

We did not do very well at the bowls, still it was a very nice way to spend the afternoon, despite the heat.  And it certainly took my mind of yesterdays news.

Afterward things started to wind down we went down to Coogee for a walk along the beach and to sit in the Pavilion to cool off and have a drink.

When Richard dropped me off later that evening, I found it hard to believe that it was after 10pm.  We had spent the entire day talking.  Turns out he is quite the environmentalist and even supports the same organisation as me, 350.org.  He has been in Australia for about 10 years after coming over for a job.  He goes home regularly to see his parents and loves tramping and being outdoors, is a bit of an amateur photographer and of course is the consummate computer geek.  He was also incredibly intelligent, curious and funny.

Despite myself I had enjoyed the day immensely.  So when he asked me if I wanted to go for coffee or lunch during the week, I said yes.

And for the first time all week, I did not worry about Ebola.

6th February 2015

Breaking News…

“An Australian died today in Sierra Leone.  The first Australian casualty of the Ebola crisis.  The nation is in shock and mourning alongside the family.  Sarah Newton, a doctor, was with the first batch of volunteers sent after the Australian Government finally relented to international pressure.  Despite Australia having the agreement with the UK government to evacuate any Australians, Sarah was too sick to be airlifted.  Instead she was treated in one of the purpose built clinics for volunteers.

Interviews with fellow medical staff said that Sarah had been confident that despite continued staff shortages and battling fatigue she had taken every safety precaution.  When she showed the first signs of a fever she assumed it was the result of something else, possibly malaria. Consequently she had not reported to sick until she had started vomiting.  While they gave her the best possible care and worked around the clock to save her, she passed away in the early hours of the morning.

Back in Australia, Sarah’s family refused to talk on camera, preferring mourn their daughter in private.  They describe Sarah as a hero, who has always put other people’s care before her own.  They are distraught at her loss and now due to restrictions regarding Ebola related deaths they will not be able to bring her body home for a family burial.  Sarah’s body will be cremated in a service with her colleagues in Sierra Leone.

A memorial will be held next Saturday at St Thomas’s, Church in Nth Sydney.”

As I watched the news cast I felt relief, guilt and empathy for Sarah’s family.  Grateful it wasn’t my friend.  As much as I tried, I could not contain my tears.

I was late for work this morning.

5th February 2015

I was over at Mum and Dad’s for dinner this evening.  There is nothing like home cooked food.  Fresh asparagus, meat cooked on the BBQ, and fresh fruit for dessert.  Yum!  While Dad got the BBQ ready I popped up to the chemist to get Dad’s script refilled.

I really do like Mum and Dad’s pharmacist, he knows his stuff and is a lovely man to boot.  He and his family have been here for years, he came over from Senegal to go to university.  I couldn’t stop for much of a chat, just enough to enquire about his daughter.  She had gone back to Senegal on her gap year to visit her grandmother.  Met a boy and fell in love.  She was now heavily pregnant and ‘stuck’ there until she had the baby.

She was good, though he was nervous about her and would much rather that she was here in Sydney with the rest of her family.

I had to wait while Carl filled the script and I noticed that there was a good stock of surgical gloves so grabbed a couple of boxes, one for Mum, the other for Grace.  I think though I’ll get Mum to hold on to Grace’s along with all the food I brought.

Oh, and in other news.  Richard asked me to go to Waitangi Day festivities with him on Saturday.

4th February 2015

There are days when I wish that having to read and watch the news was not part of my job description.

This morning while I drank my coffee, I caught up on the world news.  I was not quite prepared for what greeted me.

16 new cases of Ebola in London.

16!

And because the Ebola patients from early January still occupied 8 of the 12 beds, the London Royal Free hospital could only accommodate 4 of the new patients.  The other 12 people had to be sent to three other hospitals (Royal Liverpool, Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne) via police convoy.  Madness!

I get that they don’t have the bed space but three other hospitals is just not smart for several reasons: One, they run the additional risk of infecting the drivers and medical personal on the ambulances; Two, what if they have an accident on route? Three, there is an additional risk of people at each of the hospitals being infected.  Why they don’t just set up a special Army field hospital to cater to Ebola victims is beyond me.  Clearly they don’t have a strategist giving advice to the PM.

Maybe I should submit my CV?

What’s worse the media gave live coverage of the police escorting the four ambulances travelling from London to Newcastle resulting in several nurses and other medical staff calling in ‘sick’.  Sometimes I wish the media thought more about the consequences of their actions. Don’t get me wrong I am all for freedom of the press and good investigative journalism, you just don’t see much of it these days.  It’s all sensationalised and devoid of facts.

This is definitely going to impact my scenarios.

3rd February 2015

I managed to get out of work on time today.  That almost never happens.  I even got to go to yoga class.  Afterward I popped into the supermarket to grab a couple of things for dinner.

Famous last words.

I started out with a basket, “I’m only grabbing a few things” but as I walked down the aisles I kept seeing things that would be good in the pantry in case of isolation.  I only realised how much I had (5 of everything – one for me; two for my parents and two for my sister’s family) when I physically could not fit another thing into the basket without the handles breaking.

I had to get a trolley.

I’d walked up to yoga instead of bringing my car.  It was such a lovely evening and hadn’t counted on such an extensive (read expensive) shop.  I had to get a cab home.  Me in my yoga gear, my yoga matt and all my cans.  Goodness knows what the cabbie thought.

Well at least all pantries are fully stocked now, just in case.

And I can drop Mum and Dad’s cans (and Grace’s) at their place when I go for dinner later this week.

2nd February 2015

After hearing Juliet talk about Sierra Leone last night, I decided I needed a day away from everything Ebola.

I didn’t do any research today at work.  The only thing I did today that was Ebola related was to get an extension to my scenarios.

At lunch time I popped out to make myself feel a little better, nothing beats retail therapy.  A little escapism to forget the discussion last night.

Besides a girl can never have too many pairs of shoes.

1st February 2015

After the swim, and while the kids were watching Frozen, over a few glasses of wine Juliet relayed some of her experience on the ward in Sierra Leone.  It was sobering.

“Each day brought new cases, people didn’t stop coming.  Men and women; young and old, wealthy and poor; black and white.  If you were breathing, you were at risk.  Everyday, became about ensuring you were protected.  It was the only thing keeping you from becoming infected, so you’d get paranoid.  We developed a ritual about putting on our PPE gear.  Put it on, check for gaps and holes, then check again.  Then get someone else to check for you.

All through out the day you would check for holes and bare skin.  It was like being in a sauna.

It was worse when they brought in small children, it made me think of Sophie and Daniel…

You could have two children come within a couple of days of each other, about the same age and progression of the virus.  You’d treat them in the exact same way with fluids, the high protein peanut paste and you’d still loose them.  And there was no telling which one might pull through.  Sometimes the ones you thought were sure to die, pulled through.  Others, who should have had a fighting chance, died.  It was heartbreaking.

And the smell.  Burning bodies, chlorine and death.  Nothing gets rid of it.  It permeates the very air you breathe.  It gets into your clothes, your hair and your skin.  I had to burn all my clothes before I left and when I finally got home I soaked in the bath for hours, I thought seriously about shaving my head.

In the end you just get numb.  Numb to all the death.  You turn into a robot just to get through the day.”

I would have believed her, except for the tears rolling silently down her face.

31st January 2015

It’s been an interesting day.

Mum asked me to take her to the supermarket to help her get what she might need in case she and Dad go into isolation.

The weird thing was not that she asked me to take her.  It was that, when we were half way through, she said she was going to get some UHT milk and didn’t come back.  I had to leave the trolley half full with groceries, in the middle of the supermarket, to go look her.  I found her 20 minutes later in one of the other shops in the mall buying something for Ella.

I managed to convince her to go back into the supermarket to pay for her groceries.  Once we had them in the car I took her for a coffee.  I think Mum would have liked a shot of something stronger in hers.  When I asked her what happened, she was reluctant to talk about it, saying that I would think she was being silly.

I told her that nothing about Ebola was silly.

She said she was fine until the trolley was half full.  Then she realised what it all meant, that we all could be in danger.  Her and Dad, her children and her grandchildren.  That it was easier not to think about it.

I couldn’t pretend, that it was all rosy.  Potentially it could be quite dangerous, but it was better to be prepared than bury our heads in the sand and get caught short.  Not ignoring it was the far safer thing to do.

But, I could tell she wasn’t really listening.  I might be easier for me to get them prepared than to get Mum to think about it again.  Otherwise they might not do anything.

After I dropped Mum off, I stopped by Juliet’s place to give her the flowers and the card.  She looked good, pleased to be home, but still haunted by her experience.  I invited her and the family to the flat for a BBQ, movie and a spa.  Juliet suggested a swim in the ocean instead.  She said the smell of chlorine reminded her too much of the ward.  We agreed to meet at Coogee at around 3pm for an afternoon dip before dinner.

30th January 2015

So excited!

Juliet gets to leave quarantine tomorrow.  I think I’ll pop around tomorrow before I take mum out shopping for her isolation groceries, with some flowers and card.  I don’t want to impose on her first night back with her family.

I’ll see if she wants to come round for a movie, spa and early dinner on Sunday.

It will be wonderful to see her face to face.  It feels like forever.  I bet she is looking forward to seeing her family.

29th January 2015

I was in the supermarket on my this evening on my way home from work, and I overheard a bunch of university students arguing how long meat could be keep in a freezer.  The debate was over mince.  Budget mince.  Blergh.

So glad I am not a poor student anymore.  It is nice to be able to buy good quality meat and fresh organic fruits and veggies from the local market.  (Which reminds me I must get up early and go this Saturday before it get’s too hot.)  I will definitely miss that if I have to go into isolation.  I’ll miss fresh everything; meat, fish, chicken. *Sigh*

Maybe the electricity won’t go out straight away.  Maybe it won’t go off until later… it would be pointless to deny myself good food if I do have electricity.

I think I might stop off at the supermarket on my way home from work tomorrow and get a nice piece of eye fillet…

28th January 2015

In the news this morning they had an update on the three MSF volunteers that were on the flight back from Casablanca.  The two that had vomited on the plane had been tested for the Ebola virus and the results had come back negative.  However all three would remain in quarantine for 21 days.

I sent a txt to Ethan this morning to tell him to stockpile some food for him and Katie.

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This was his reply:

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27th January 2015

Last week I had a letter from the Blood Donor Centre saying they urgently needed universal donor blood.  My blood.  I had my donation appointment today and when I got there, Richard was in the waiting room.  Turns out we both have a moral conscious when it comes to giving blood.  Part of our  responsibility to humanity.  We ended up on beds next to each other which was nice to be able to chat to someone while they took a litre of the red stuff.  It was nice to have someone to take my mind off it.  Not that I’m squeamish, I just not a huge fan of seeing blood.

Richard shared that blood donation is organised a little differently in NZ.  Like here, you can book an appointment or turn up to the local blood donation centre, however they also have mobile blood donation units.  The units turn up at schools, universities, and businesses.  They set up for the day and people cycle through to give blood.  Making it easy to donate means they get a really good turnout.  People who might have just had “good intentions” actually donate.

I was a little disappointed to head back to work after the tea, biscuits and chat with Richard.

I wonder where I will ‘bump’ into him next…?

26th January 2015

I phoned Ethan today to find out if he was Ok and why on earth the was down in Southwark. Turns out he went down there to see an Australian Blues and Roots band and buy some weed.  The Idiot.  Quite accidentally he got caught in the melee.

He then proceeded to tell me what happened and even though I wasn’t there I was quite scared.  What started as a peaceful protest against the cancelled airline flights, turned ugly when someone threw something at police.  Then everything escalated out of hand.  Whatever people could get their hands on was thrown; fires were lit in the streets; cars overturned; shop fronts vandalised, windows smashed and looted.

The police pulled back before coming with reinforcements but by then the crowd was already out of control.  Ethan and his friends, while not in the thick of it, were picked on by a group of angry youth.  That was when Ethan got kicked in the head.  About that time police reinforcements arrived and the rioters turned their attention to the police.  Thankfully it gave Ethan and his mates an opportunity to escape down an alleyway and over a wall.  They made their way out through backyards.  Ethan then collapsed with concussion and woke up in hospital.

He’s been told not to go to work for the rest of the week.

Then he swore me to secrecy.

Mum and Dad would have kittens if they found out.

25th January 2015

I got a phone call in the middle of the night last night from a doctor at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.  Phone calls in the middle of the night are scary at the best of times, then when the person on the other end tells you they’re a doctor…

I knew it was going to be about Ethan and the Southwark Riots.

The doctor told me that Ethan was fine, he had sustained a couple of lacerations and one above his eye had required stitches.  He was particularly lucky the one above his eye was not more serious.  He also suffered a serious knock to the head so they were keeping him in for observation, but he should be able to go home tomorrow.

I’m glad they couldn’t get hold of Mum and Dad, they would have been beside themselves.

I was too alert to go back to sleep after the call so I got up and made myself a cup of tea to calm my nerves.  I decided to read about the riots.  Instead there was breaking news of a flight from Casablanca to New York.

“Earlier today a plane on route from Casablanca to New York encountered severe turbulence.  Consequently inducing vomiting in dozens of passengers, including 2 (of 3) MSF volunteers returning to the U.S. from Liberia.  Neither of the turbulence affected MSF volunteers showed signs of a fever.  However as a precautionary measure and in accordance with strict CDC guidelines the pilot immediately notified the CDC.  Two air stewards then donned personal protective equipment including face mask, gloves and apron before moving the MSF volunteers to seats in air crew rest area.  

Passengers witnessing the removal of the volunteers immediately suspected Ebola and messaged friends and family using the flight’s internet connection.  All three MSF volunteers were quarantined on arrival at JFK.  All other passengers have been interviewed to capture detailed contact information.  Passengers interviewed as they departed the Casablanca to NY flight have expressed their fear of infection.”

“And in related news there are now reports that airline stocks have dropped 15% in final hour of trading.”

Wow, things are really starting to heat up, I wonder what’s next?

I really must get back to sleep though if I am going to be functional at work in a few hours.