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.

16th January 2015

I sent the list, for my first aid items, through to Juliet once I’d completed it.  I wanted to make sure that I had thought of everything.  Her initial response was that I was being silly.  Australia is too far away from West Africa to have an outbreak.

Yes, I know I’m being a little paranoid, and, while its not likely that there will be an Ebola outbreak here in Australia, there is a possibility that the supply chain will be disrupted and I want to be prepared.  And that includes medical supplies.  After that, Juliet was more forthcoming.

The only two things she told me to add to my list were;

  • disposable thermometers – so you don’t have to remember to sterilise the glass one and;
  • a book on first aid – because if you can’t get to a doctor then you will need to know how to tend to minor injuries.

She was curious as to why I had included the essential oils.  She understood why I would have eucalyptus, nearly every Australian home has a bottle as it’s a great astringent.  I explained that the others are all good at either boosting the immune system, keeping infection at bay, effective against vomiting and diarrhoea or a great disinfectant.

I told her the story of four thieves stealing clothes and jewellery from victims of the bubonic plague.  It’s said that the thieves used a mix of 5 essential oils (clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary and eucalyptus) to avoid getting sick.  Now, you can even buy ‘Thieves’ essential oil.  The Weber State University in Utah carried out research on the properties of the essential oils and found them to have a 99.96% kill rate against airborne bacteria.

I promised to send through some additional information, so that she could have a read while she was in isolation.

15th January 2015

After my phone call with Ethan yesterday I decided I needed to stop and take stock.  I assessed the contents of my first aid kit and realised that it was relatively well stocked with bandages and such like.  A couple of things had passed their use by date; the saline solution and some of the ointments.  All easy to replace.  What I didn’t know was what I might need for self imposed isolation.  Nor how much I might need.  So, I spent the evening researching what you would need in a pandemic survival kit.

Here is my shopping list;

  • Surgical gloves x 1 box 100 pairs
  • Hand sanitisers/wipes
  • Bleach/disinfectants x 2 litre bottles
  • Surgical masks x 2 box of 20 masks (I wonder if I need something more robust?)
  • Disposable chemical suit  (Am I being over the top??)
  • Electrolytes x 40 x 200ml pkts
  • Immunity boosters – e.g. Vitamin C
  • Saline solutions x 10 vials
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Iodine drops
  • Butterfly strips x 1 x 10 pkt
  • Sterile wound dressing
  • Facial tissues
  • Essential Oils (Lemon, clove, cinnamon, peppermint, eucalyptus and rosemary

I might check with Juliet tomorrow and see if there is anything on my list that I really don’t need or if there is anything that I’ve missed.

While I was researching I also realised that it’s not just my first aid kit that requires attention.  If I do have to go into isolation, there are other things I need; non perishable food, candles, batteries, water.

Am I being over cautious.  Maybe.

Will people think I’m nuts.  Yes.

To be honest I don’t care.  I’d rather be prepared for the worst than caught short.

14th January 2015

Ethan called me this evening.  I nearly fell off my chair. He hardly ever calls, unless of course he wants something.  Which of course he did.  Money.  He wanted to borrow some money so he could pay the fine from NYE. £2000.  I don’t have that kind of cash lying around.  There is no way he would ring mum and dad for that much money.  He would be in so much trouble.  And besides ‘borrow’ in Ethan’s world is a very loose term.

He was telling me that the big news of the morning in London is that the UK Prime Minister is getting a complete roasting in the media over two nurses testing positive for Ebola.  They had been on duty at the local A&E where three of the 8 Ebola patients were admitted before being transferred to Royal Free Hospital.  (Yay! My brother is finally paying attention).

The PM is now being accused of false promises.  Ethan, then read out bits and pieces from one of the daily rags; “it is likely that contamination may have occurred when the nurses removed their PPE” and one of the nurses is quoted as saying “there were so many false alarms in December, when we put the family in the ambulance, we took off our PPE and went back to our shift.”

I know he’s OK and he’s far enough away from the incidents, still it doesn’t make it any easier.  I might talk to Mum and Dad about sending him a plane ticket and getting him to come home for an extended holiday.  Until this all dies down.

Not long after our phone conversation I got a text from Ethan;