After an Ebola outbreak was declared in Guinea earlier this year, there was a need to increase epidemic surveillance and prepare for potential Ebola patients in neighboring areas of Liberia. Rita M. Nelson, an infection prevention and control nurse with MSF in Liberia, provides a personal account of this effort.
I am an infection prevention and control nurse at the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) pediatric hospital in Monrovia, Liberia.
After an Ebola epidemic was declared in neighboring Guinea in February 2021, I worked with an MSF epidemiologist to help Liberian border communities prepare for a possible outbreak.
I first joined MSF in September 2014 as part of the response to the Ebola outbreak in the country that year. On the day I applied I saw everyone wearing their yellow personal protective equipment (PPE). I saw people dying in the streets from Ebola, people lying along the fence, people carrying stretchers with bodies on them. When I saw that, my whole spirit as a nurse left me. I felt physically ill from seeing many people so sick and bodies all around. It is scary as a health care worker because you cannot help someone that is dying because you are also afraid to die. At that time I actually felt lucky to have a job as a data encoder. That is how I started working and I was able to have the fear leave me.
The next year MSF was opening a hospital to meet non-Ebola health needs in Monrovia, so when I finished my job as a data encoder I successfully applied to work as a nurse in the hospital. My first position was as an infection prevention and control supervisor, and later I became a nurse in the neonatal ward. Learning to provide medical care to a newborn baby, with their tiny veins, was like magic for me, and now I am super at it because I underwent training with MSF. With the help of my friends in the hospital, I started learning, learning, learning, until today I am who I am.
When another Ebola outbreak was declared in Guinea in February 2021, I felt like we were going back to what happened in 2014. Guinea is not far from Liberia's Lofa and Nimba counties, and our first case in 2014 came from Lofa county. It has a lot of border points, and people interacting with people in Guinea to get food [and supplies].