Gino’s Diary – January 18th, 2015
Maybe we’ve done it. Maybe we really can beat this epidemic. The number of new cases is falling sharply every day, so let’s hope there aren’t any sudden upswings again. Maybe, in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be able to say the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone has come to an end. But what an effort it’s taken! And how many miracles.
When the Health Ministry asked us to open an Isolation Center in Lakka for suspected cases back in August, our logistics managers created a 22-bed tent structure in under three weeks. It soon turned into a Treatment Center as well: there were just too many patients, lying on the ground outside the gate, worn out by the illness and waiting for a bed. And so the race began to get everything ready to not only isolate and observe the patients, but also to treat them: ensuring water and electricity supplies, guaranteeing safety procedures and routines, providing air-conditioning to reduce the physical effort of operators wrapped up in really hot protective suits and, at last, beginning to treat the sick. Because even if there’s no specific cure, many lives can still be saved if you can understand something of this serious illness that’s still largely unknown, and if you have the right instruments and pharmaceuticals. So, step by step and with enormous difficulty, we set up a biochemical lab and then a virology lab. The monitors arrived, along with the pumps for intravenous infusions, the ventilators for intubating the most serious patients, and the dialysis machines. In just three months, we managed to set up an intensive care unit like those you can find in the specialized centers in Europe and the USA – which have treated around 30 people, with a mortality rate of less than 30%. Two out of three get cured in rich countries; two out of three die in the poverty-stricken Africa due to lack of treatment.
Things have changed now though. In EMERGENCY’s new, 100-bed center in Goderich, we can provide almost the same level of treatment as in the West, right here in Sierra Leone. We have an excellent Intensive Care Unit, the only one of its kind in the country. Perhaps it won’t be needed for much longer if the Ebola epidemic is (as we hope) drawing to a close. But it will be needed again, the next time, and in the meantime to treat the many seriously ill people who, until yesterday, were incurable.
We’re proud of this because we’ve shown it can be done, even here in Africa. Because we’ve shown, once again, that patients have no specific color; they’re people, with exactly the same rights as us. Free and equal, as we’d all like to be. A few months ago, I said (a bit hastily) ”If I catch Ebola, I’ll stay in Africa.” Now I can firmly say, with peace of mind: I’d seek treatment at EMERGENCY‘s ETC (Ebola Treatment Center).
Over the years, setting up a multitude of hospitals, we’ve often asked ourselves “but what should a hospital be like in Iraq or in the Central African Republic, in Sudan or in Afghanistan? What facilities, equipment and therapies should be made available?” We answered that question in the most simple and humane way: the hospital is “an EMERGENCY hospital”; it’s good for “them” if it’s good for us, for our loved ones, for all of us. Because equality also means sharing the same rights and being part of a common destiny.
Freetown, Sierra Leone
To support Gino’s mission of providing the same high quality care found in the West to those suffering from Ebola in Sierra Leone, click here to donate now.