Night shift.

A sharp cry breaks the stillness of the night, and awakens the staff and I from our short restless sleep.

A women in the confirmed ward was crying out, her whole body shook with grief, and her voice failed her. Distraught is a word too timid to describe the emotion. Her whole world was suddenly gone, twenty years of life,   a lifetime of promise was taken away in a matter of days.

Ebola had claimed another, its second of the day, surely Charons boat must be nearing it’s limit.

I went in with Matt,  one of the doctors here, and one of the nationals who was acting as a sprayer.

EDIT: One of our nurses was taking pictures during the donning procedure of our gear. She stated that it was an eerie silence as we did it, no one spoke a word. It was almost ritualistic.

She was laying on her right side, a light sheet  covering her to her neck.  No pulse, no chest rise and fall, and the warmth had left her body. There was no pools of blood, or bodily fluids like many would think, she lay peacefully.

She was dead. We pulled the sheet over her head.

Ebola is at its highest viral load when the person has died, dealing with dead bodies is one of the most dangerous jobs you can have in an Ebola outbreak. In order to prevent the virus from spreading,  the body is sprayed with a 0.5% chlorine solution. When we wash our hands we use a 0.05% solution. The 0.5% is used for equipment and our protective suit.

The virus had stripped her of her humanity.  We didn’t care about burning her skin, we just needed to stop the virus from being on another surface.

You have to move the people out of the room to do this, the chlorine is high enough concentration that any splashing can cause burns.  So her two roommates, a 40 year old women and a –

3 year old girl.

Had to be moved across the hall. The little girl was in there awake and watching as we checked for a pulse and covered her body.  I Made two beds in the other room and matt carried the little girl over.  We Gave her  blankets and toys and tucked her in. I asked her if she was okay and she nodded, her head trying to see what was going on in the other room.

The wailing mother was down the hall, sitting on a chair in a room occupied by two other patients. Matt went in first and spoke with her briefly,  giving her some valium to help her sleep.

I walked in and gave mine as well, squeezing her hand trying to offer what sympathy I could, tears were already filling my goggles.

We moved everything we could out of the one room into the other, and the sprayer went in.

I stood in front of the three year olds door, blocking her view in case she was curious. She has already seen to much for her age.

The sprayer worked methodically as he sprayed her body,

Pump pump pump
Pump pump pump
Pump pump pump

Until her body was soaked. We blocked off the door and started to leave, the three year old was already alseep.

It’s raining now, thundering down in great buckets on our tin roof, so loud we can’t have a conversation across the room.

But I can still hear the mothers scream

Leaving for the Hot Zone

Sorry about the lack of another update detailing the week of training, I have become side tracked, however it is still in the works and will come at some point.

Our hot training was supposed to start today for all of us, however there weren’t any spots open at any ETUs the number of patients wasn’t high enough. A lot of the ETU’s have empty or near empty beds. So we were told we’d have to wait a couple weeks possibly before we received any training with active ebola patients.

That changed on Sunday. Bong county got hit hard with patients and they are in desperate need of our services. Three of the team went to the overflow site, and myself, a doc and another nurse are going to the bong county etu. Sorry about the writing, it’s late and I’m tired. I’m also a bit nervous of this actually happening. However it’s what we came for, what we all wanted to do.

and like the tattoo on my side reads, “Aut Viam Invinium aut Faciem.”

“If I can’t find a way, I’ll make one.”

Weekend in Liberia

Planes are magical dream machines for me. Unless I’m on an international flight where sleeping would be the best thing to keep my time on track – I crash out. I zonk out. I’m done. I’m over consciousness.

I’m awoken by a thud and a bounce as the plane touched down in Monrovia. Landing you can’t really see much of anything, just green in the distance and a few houses.As we are slowly taxied to the air way I look right and to my surprise I see a bunch of Army tents, familiar tents.

i know those tents, that’s a combat support hospital. I use to help set up those tents.  And to it’s left I see two of these bad boys sitting on the ground. V-22 Ospreys. Two of America’s most expensive toys sitting on a runway that probably hasn’t been fixed since the 80s.

We get off the plane and head towards the terminal. For whatever reason, I’m first off the bus in our group and first to get our passports stamped.

There to greet us is our contact, Renee, and seeing me he extends his hand to shake mine. I respond instinctively. I mean, that’s just what you do when someone puts your hand out to shake it. It’s muscle memory. Except for when you’re here…It’s not.
“You fail. get back on the plane he joked.” and let out a hearty laugh. Soon we’ve grabbed our bags and are loaded onto two separate vehicles for the hour drive back to Monrovia.  As we leave the airport, there sits two burned out husks of planes with grass nearly overgrowing them.

30 feet next to it a sign reads:


They say that night vision goggles come in green because it’s the most shades of a color the human eye can discern, and driving through Liberia, I can start to believe that. The countryside is lush and rich with vegetation. There’s no smog in the sky.  Your eye can shift from grass, to high bush, to tree and witness half a dozen shades of green as you do so.

As we continued down the road, Liberian houses started appearing on the side. These aren’t houses in the American sense of the word, or houses in the Detroit sense of the word. Most of these are concrete block houses with sheet metal roofs and open air windows. There’s no pavement or side walks, just a reddish brown dirt that circles and coats everything.  Women with narrow brooms sweep dirt from piles of dirt to other piles of dirt, taking small bits of rubbish and waste with them. You can tell the houses that sweep the dirt from the dirt, and the houses that don’t.

These weren’t the tall buildings of Senegal, and it’s monuments to Africa. This was the Liberian monument to Africa, infrastructure reduced to it’s bare minimum after 20 years of civil war and fighting.

(For those who don’t know, Liberia was founded by American’s freed and escaped slaves that booked passage back to Africa and established a nation state. Well these American decedents where known as Amerio-Liberians and ruled at the expense of the natives from the foundation of the state in 1832 to 1980. In 1980 this man –

Samuel Doe –

took power in a violent coup. He ruled for 10 years before another dictator –

Charles Taylor – took over (That’s him with some child soldier guards)

He ruled until he was finally kicked out in the early 2000’s.

Neither of these rulers were particularly good. If you’ve ever watched Nicolas Cages film on arms dealing “Lord of War.” You’ll remember the scene with the crazy African warlord, the diamonds, and the golden AK-47s. These were all heavily based off Charles Taylor and his son.

Education, roads, and research were not highly important to either dictator, and the giant explosions that took down many of the buildings have yet to be fixed.)

You see buildings abandoned in every state of construction, from the first steps of construction to visibly damaged from conflict.  Driving to our house was an interesting experience. Liberian drivers use their turn signals to signal that it is okay to pass on one side or the other. Lines on the road are more recommendations then anything, and our driver was on more than one occasion only inches away from vehicles on either side.

The countryside slowly changed from green to more urban and we were in the city.

Two turns and we were pulling into our “Guest house”. Large concrete walls surrounded the place with barbed wire and shards of glass resting on top. It’s quite inviting.

I was pretty surprised when I walked in. The house is very modern with air conditioning, four bedrooms, and three bathrooms.  Davis and I would split a room and a bathroom in the back (Where I currently am sitting right now).

A few minutes after we came in, we were presented with food.

But wait, There’s more.

It’s astoundingly good. The fish and the rice have the right amount of spices in them that just make you come back for more every time. The fruit and salad are of the freshest variety, each bite just bursts with flavor. The bananas you see there, well normally I wouldn’t eat a green Banana, but these aren’t the typical American Banana, They’re of a separate species.

You remember those little terrible banana hard candies that you could get out of a machine for a quarter?  I do, and I remember them tasting nothing like a banana. These banana’s are what they taste like.

The females in our group have been staying at a hotel, so the house is just for the men, it also serves as our base of operations for the next week while we go through cold training.  Honestly we all feel spoiled again in this house, we have AC, we have food, yet we all expected tents. We were quickly assured that it is only temporary, and that we might be living in tents, or a hospital wing, and to enjoy it while it lasts.

We ran into a few issues. Our water situation quickly became a problem, the system was new and a massive leak formed in some of the out door pipes. We managed to get it working temporarily by syncing it together with some clothesline.

After a good nights sleep in a real bed, we decided we would go check out the beach. It was only around a mile away and we could see a bit of Liberia in the process. We took a dirt road that ran outside the side of the house.

It traveled down through a neighborhood. Walking through Liberia, you’re struck by two things:

  1. How incredibly nice everyone is- Good mornings and how are you doing’s
  2. The abject poverty that is apparent everywhere. In some of the more rural areas of the United States you can still find a few decent houses sprinkled amongst the poor ones. Not so much here – open air houses, with patched roofs, foundation and walls made of cinder blocks all held together by necessity. These people are poor.

That doesn’t mean that they want to live like that forever. On every street corner you’ll see little shops, or corner stands selling candy or gasoline in jars. The people here sell scratch off tickets, have a charging station for power, and even a PlayStation 2 you can play.

The Beach itself was gorgeous, looking out unto the water you can forget that you’re in Liberia. It’s the Ocean, uncaring and unforgiving. You could make out a fishing boat in the distance, and the waves crashed against the shore.

(Another history note – When Samuel Doe took power in 1980, he captured many government workers and executed them on the beach I’m standing here on)

(The pathway to the beach was fraught with danger and difficult crossings)

On the way back we stopped by a shop for a moment. When we walked in the owner directed us to turn around and wash our hands in the chlorine solution that stood in front of the store:

There was also a poster about the dangers of Ebola virus that hung next to the entryway:

The next day was relatively un eventful, we sat around, looked at slow internet.. The whole time speculating about what type of training would begin on Monday.

On Sunday I tagged along on a ride through the city.

Around a mile from our houses position, an Ebola clinic was set up around the burned out husk of Doe’s department of Defense building. A nice gut check to a Sunday morning drive. Sealed gates, high barbed walls. I can see why people would be afraid of a place like that.

You can still see the after affects of 13 years of devastating civil war. This use to be a world class five star hotel before it was destroyed during the siege of Monrovia.

One of the many efforts by the Liberian government to combat ebola is through a massive public outreach campaign, from the small posters above to giant murals hand painted on walls.

We stopped to talk to the artist and to see why he was out there.

His name was Duke Appleton and he is an artist hired by the Liberian EPA to paint these. There are around six artists that do all the murals in Monrovia.

Here’s some of his sketches that he goes off of. This one is towards the end, when the man is cured from Ebola.

He really believes in what he is doing – all of the artists there do. They have to educate the public, and help fight misconceptions about the disease in order to finally beat it, and murals like his are one way to do it.

But not the only way, through out the city there are large and small posters about the dangers of Ebola.

Part of my worry, and some of my other aid workers here, is that the population thinks that the threat of Ebola is over. That they think that it came, it went, and it disappeared. When people thought the same thing in Guinea and Sierra Leon it came back. Not only did it come back, but came back with a tenacity that no one predicted  I’m afraid that since the wet season is ending, people will leave the city and head back into the country, potentially spreading it to others.

For what it’s worth, a study followed two Ebola cases that effected lowland guerrillas, both outbreaks happened during the dry season, as the guerrillas were forced deeper into the forest for fruit. They would come into contact with fruit that had been partially eaten by infected bats. Could the same thing happen to humans? People heading deeper into the forest in search of food and bush meat?

As of now, people are out and about in busy markets:

Riding motorcycles together:
 And playing football:

It is nice to see the capital come back to life after a devastating outbreak ran rampant through it’s streets. With new cases still cropping up in the capital and around the countryside, and the surge of cases in neighboring Sierra Leon, you have to wonder if it’s too soon.

Roughing it in Dakar

The Hotel was nothing like any of us had imagined. We had pictured a run down place, with beds, maybe spotty cell service an wifi. None of us expected to be put up in the Radison Blue.

The Radison Blue

While we waited for our rooms to be cleared and ready, we headed down to breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It didn’t feel like breakfast, which felt more like two or three PM, but we were all starving.  The food was just like the hotel; much better than we expected. Omelets made to order, fresh bread, juice.  It felt very strange – an oasis of western civility in otherwise developing nation.
When we looked to the left we seen this pool and the ocean. Maliciously kept with the bluest water I’ve ever seen.

To the right The beach and Dakar

Simply beautiful.

Something rather strange did occur during breakfast. An American came and introduced himself to us, asked us who we were with. He said he was professor of something or another, and he taught around the world. He kept asking questions about each of us and had a very strange air to him. He did recommend that we later go to a highly acclaimed fish place by the ocean by the name of Lagon 1.

I walked away with John the other team leader and went to go get the room keys. We all later agreed he had to be CIA/ ex CIA or some kind of intelligence. We would late take his recommendation for dinner. Spooks gotta eat too.

The rooms themselves were very nice – very western. We were very spoiled for our one day in Dakar. I started coming up with this crazy idea that it was a slow and gradual process to get us ready to live in tents. First were in a fancy hotel, then a guest house with high walls and wifi, and finally into living in tents.

At this point in life I’m exhausted, had four hours of sleep the night before, maybe an hour and a half on the plane. I get ready to lay down and Carrol calls, she wants someone to go with her to help find a smaller bag to help with the weight restriction. I guess there is a “mall” attached to the hotel.

Yeah, Sure. Why not? I get another burst of energy that comes right before you reach total exhaustion. I’m sure it’s just a few small shots on the ground level of the hotel. No, this thing was massive. A full size mall attached to the hotel. Western mall with shops and banks and fountains and a full supermarket as well.  We managed to find a good sized gym bag for her that fit all of her clothes.  I’m exhausted at the end of this, and we all agreed to meet up to discuss the hotel at Three. So a quick glorious two hour nap for me.

We talked about the restaurant and decided we would go at 6:00. This gave me some time to finally check out that glorious pool.

Moving the clock a few hours ahead and we’re at 6PM. Five of us are waiting for the concierge to bring in two taxi’s for us to go. The agreed upon price was around 10,000 Francs (20 dollars) to take us there and to pick us up at 8pm. Remember this – it’s important.

On the way there I got a couple photo’s of Sengal.

We took a cab ride to a restaurant on the beach in downtown Dakar. Stopped along the side of the road to get a shot of the fishing boats that head out every morning to sea. They leave at 6am and return in the afternoon.

Other side of the small bay; trash was rampant along the beach and on the sides of the road. In the early morning, women would come out with brooms to sweep it into piles and throw it away.
 And Senegalese Infrastructure.

Buildings like that dot the streets left and right. Money from aid or foreign investors would come in and the building would go half way up, then either through corruption or the money just stopping – so would construction.  The general feeling I get from the Senegalese people is that they want to try hard, they want their country to be great like western nations, and after speaking with some foreign nationals Dakar is a great west African city. It’s very modernized and sheik in comparison to Monrovia or Freetown.

Our cab driver was friendly enough at the moment. He mentioned how Senegal is primarily muslim nation but with a large christian population. The largest minority group were the Lebanese.  I guess you could still find some good falafal in Dakar if you tried hard enough.

As we arrived, our driver wanted to… renegotiate our deal. The original was 3500 francs to take us there, and 3500 francs to pick us up for each driver. He wanted 10,000 Francs himself to drop us off and wait there. Intense negotiations followed. Carrol who was with it, wasn’t having any of it.
“9,000 francs, I am doing you a favor! That’s the lowest I can go or I’ll leave.” He demanded.
Carrol’s eyes narrowed and her voice came out stern, “Then leave, we’ll find another way.”
He stammered for a minute, and we paid him and the other driver the 3500 francs we agreed upon.

The restaurant went out onto the water, it had an inside portion, but why sit inside?

The food was excellent, as was the conversation.  We spoke about how we would handle patients, what situations we could expect, what we would do in certain circumstances. It was very speculative and quite fun. The sun set beautifully to our right, the moon rose to our left and the sounds of waves crashing against the shore accompanied our conversations.

As we were sitting, the cab driver came through the restaurant door and spoke to us,
“I will wait out there for you, and it will be 7,500 francs like we talked about at the hotel.” He shook his finger towards Carrol, “You are good negotiator, you are true Senegalese.” and laughed.

The rest of the night was uneventful, we took the taxi’s back to the hotel and headed for bed. I decided to have a quick gin and tonic before bed at the hotel bar and overheard someone speaking in German.  Two girls, I tilted my head and listened a little more.

German!? In Senegal? Finally I could sort of understand what they were saying, but it was weird. It was mixed with French and had a strange accent. So I asked them where they are from, Switzerland.

Back in German IV in high school, we had a chapter dedicated to a city in Switzerland called Basal. We had to recognize the accent and how it was different from high German.  One of the girls was from Basal, so deep in the long term memory part of my brain. Buried underneath the Konami code and reruns of Roseanne lay that memory- The memory of Chapter 6 “Basal Deutsch.”  it stirred, awoken by the ugly accent- it shrugged and emitted a “Finally” before collapsing again into being irrelevant.

The girls were nice, one was on vacation visiting the other, who worked for a Non Government Organization out of Geneva to help children (Save the Children). They gave me some info to contact a couple of their doctors in Sierra Leon for new information on how to treat pediatric patients.

The two Gin and tonics I had were 13,000 Francs, or 24 dollars.

Yeah, I didn’t have another.

Because of the weight restrictions we had on our bag, all of us were trying to “wear” our weight. I had on gym shorts, an extra t shirt, my heavy boots, an extra pair of socks and my olive drab jacket.  It was going to be close for some of us, and we knew we might have to leave some things behind.  Our flight was at 9am, but it was suggested we get there about an hour earlier, so we planned to make it even earlier. We were going to take the 6am shuttle to get there by no later then 7.

After a quick breakfast of Coffee and half an apple, I was on my way with the rest of them towards the UN airport. Our directions to the driver first led him to the wrong military base, then to the right military base but not the right terminal. We were starting to worry we wouldn’t find the place, or that we were lost.

The Senegalese guard at the gate looked at our HHI id cards, our paperwork and disappeared for ten minutes, leaving us all sitting at the gate wondering if we would get in.

(This is us waiting on some word from the gate guard on what to do)

After a few more minutes of waiting, handing up our ID badges, handing them back to everyone, handing them back again we were directed towards the UN terminal, which was half a mile to the right.

We were greeted with two more gate guards, who quickly waved us through after looking at our paperwork.  It was still early, so early that no one else had been there.  We walked down the path right onto the tarmac. We laid our bags next to the UN plane and started looking around.

(Two MI-4 helicopters that sat next to our plane)

We didn’t see anyone around, no one as far as the eye can see. To the left we see a closed gate and a generator. So three of us head over to investigate. To our great surprise were greeted by…


Woah. They grab their commander who comes and talks to us, directs us back to the gate where we started and proceeds  gives us a few bottles of water. It was nice to see the air force, and I don’t say that a lot. They looked like they were living in tents too, I honestly didn’t know the air force could do that.

So we grabbed our bags and headed back up to the “Terminal” and waited for the UN to arrive (I feel like waiting for the UN to arrive is a common theme in Africa).

After awhile a nice French man showed up and handed us some paperwork to fill out while we waited.

See that first tent to the right? We went in there to have our temperature taken and some questions answered. Two UN workers both in full scrubs, hat, and masked asked us questions before sending us to the next tent.

The Luggage check, famed and hated weight check. To our surpirse/joy/confussion/disgust they only weighed our checked bags. Our carry on bags were not subject to being weighed. All those hours spent getting just the amount of weight right, and buying new bags was for naught.  There I was, In Africa wearing two shirts, a jacket, gym shorts under my jeans  giant boots, an extra socks. I felt like I looked like the biggest chump there. But we couldn’t have known, we didn’t know, and in the end it didn’t really hurt much of anything.

Lucille was in front of me at the passport section and the customs official was confused as to why she didn’t have a visa.
“You need a Visa to be here, you only have a stamp. Where is your visa?” She asked her.

I stepped in quickly.

“The Visa official at the airport said it would be okay if we were only here for one day.”  Here we go, with the bluffing. If she accepted it then we would be fine, otherwise it could throw a whole wrench into the plan. She would miss the flight, we would have to take her to the downtown office for a stamp.

“Okay.” She stamped the book and handed it back to her.  It worked.

Two security guards waved over us with magnetic batons before we got on the plane.  We made it,  we managed to make it through Dakar alive and onto the UN plane.

Next stop.


Dakar Part One

As Tuesday was coming to an end, I get a call with further instructions from Heart to Heart International (I think I’m just going to call them HHI for ease of typing). They also let me know I was designated one of two team leads while we were in Dakar. I was responsible for getting the team to Dakar and from Dakar to Liberia. when we get to Liberia I’d be done.

I didn’t expect that, but I could do it. Why couldn’t I do it?

The flight from Chicago wasn’t very eventful, I remember having an isle seat and falling asleep immediately. It was a very boring flight. I got on board, fell asleep -woke in Washington DC two hours later. It was time travel.

I get off the plane in DC, and grabbed my luggage.

In the international terminal I found my group

HHI Ebola Team (I’m on the far right)

I was the third from last to get there and the other two trickled in and we started to frantically go through our bags to drop weight. We were told that the UN flight from Dakar to Monrovia could only have 44lbs (20 kilos) of weight in both carry on and checked bag.

This was a big deal, we had a scale we were using. Several people left things with the HHI representative to get sent home. I was just at the edge with around 48 lbs. I planned on wearing my heavy boots, and a few layers of clothing to make up for it.  I sent home my camera charger (I forgot my camera) and a power converter I didn’t need.  We started trading items to try to get it just perfect before we left.

We had some trouble right off the bat. One of our team members name on the ticket didn’t match the name on the passport. A simple misspelling that could potentially keep her from coming back to the United States. I called HHI, trying to see if there was something we could do to fix it. They were right on top of it getting everything done. We waited around awhile; the clock was slowly ticking closer to when we should start heading through security. Finally, it comes through.

The ticket is fixed!

But, the name on some of her printed paperwork isn’t. You know how hard it is to find a place to print in an airport?  The currency exchange shack managed to do it. It cost us $3.50 to print two pages off, but we got it done.

We make it through security, enjoy a few snacks and the last bit of 4g service we’ll see for six weeks.

The plane ride itself was 8 and a half hours long. I sat next to this girl from South Africa, she was friendly. We talked about Africa and my limited knowledge of south African history (Boar War, Apartheid being bad, and the movie Zulu)  She told me about her time as an exchange student in America and how she’s going to miss our food and excess.

South African Airways is really top notch when it comes to their food (Which I ate with METAL silverware on a plane) and entertainment. Each seat has a video monitor where you can watch movies. I finally got a chance to see tom cruises edge of tomorrow – it was killing space aliens on groundhog day, awesome.

I managed maybe an hour of sleep before we finally landed in Dakar. Too many thoughts were running through my head. Was I doing the right thing? Was this a big mistake? No, it’s not, calm down, relax. This is the right thing to do, this is what you need to do. You got this, you got this by the ass, man.

We landed at the beautiful airport of Dakar with it’s many staff and amenities.

Lets just say the place has seen better days, the walls and floors are dirtied, some of the windows are patched with plastic. Our plane didn’t dock with a terminal like it would in the states. stairs were wheeled over to the plane and the door opened.  A bus took us from the tarmac to the terminal.  As we walked in, we had our forehead temperatures taken by a mask wearing woman. There had been one previous case of Ebola in Senegal.

Just having that made it seem somehow more real. This is really happening. Here I am, 26 years old, going to Africa – the continent I had at one time sworn never to visit – to fight a disease that I had feared since I was a child. What was/am I thinking?

I keep going forward now, and at the Dakar Airport. The door led to two roped off corridors, one with a sign in English, and one in French. I took the one in English. I walked up to the small plexiglass counter and handed the uniformed customs officer my passport.  He asks in heavily accented English, “What do you do?”
“Nurse.” I reply. He shrugs his shoulders and takes my finger prints.

I’m then directed into a tiny room. Another Senegalese military officer sits behind a desk. He yawns as I walk in and hand him my passport and my stack of papers. The room smells terrible. I really don’t want to be in it longer than I have to.

Fate obliges and he puts a Visa in my passport and sends me on my way. The rest of the group is making their way through customs. Davis is trying to figure out how to say paramedic in French, some of the others are already getting a stamp.

All of the signs are in French. Some of them have English under them, some don’t.  One catches my eye near the baggage claim.

Ebola poster in Dakar Airport

I don’t speak french, but I recognize the word Ebola, and it seems to be a warning of how to avoid the disease.  Well shit, reality shooting another shot across the bow.

Lucille was having some problems with her passport. Her paperwork said she would be staying for a year and the customs official was telling her he couldn’t give her a printed visa. She would have to go downtown to get it.
I stuck my head in there and asked, “Is it okay if we do it on Friday? We just got off an 8 hour flight and were exhausted.”
He shrugged, “Yeah that’s fine.” and stamped her visa.
We left for Monrovia on Friday. Crisis averted.

Leaving the Airport.

We were told before we left that we could speak to someone at the airport about getting the Hotel to send a shuttle  to pick us up. In reality there was no one to talk to. A currency exchange stand and two bored security personnel who scanned our bags with the attentiveness of a drugged Labrador retriever.

It went Visa processing -Bag check out-Xray-Street, in the space of 100 feet.

As soon as we walked outside a tall African in a dirty white t-shirt  started walking over to us. He tried to pick one of our bags up to carry it, we shooed him away before he could do that.
“My friends,” He started in accented English, ” What do you need? I am a hustler. I will help you get what you need done.”
“We need to find out of the shuttle is coming or call it.”  We tell him, he walks us to an area where empty buses and vans are sitting.
Another man came over, another self proclaimed hustler.  Now they were fighting over our business trying to help us out.

We needed the number for the hotel. I had that number on a sheet I printed off in the states. I pulled it out and started to find the number. Just when I did this they both started trying to grab the paper, one at each shoulder.
“Give it to me!” One shouted grabbing the paper,
“No give it to me, I was helping you first!” He shouted trying to grab the paper.
“No me!”
“Me!” Each of them had a hand on the paper and were starting to rip it, shouting in my ear about letting them do it.
“I’m not giving either one of you the paper!” I said and walked away. That had been a tense situation. One of them provided a cell phone, and let us use it to call the hotel. Carrol is the french speaker in our group and saved the day in getting the shuttle sent to us as fast as she could. While we probably could have had it sent, it would have been much more difficult.

We waited for about 15 minutes, the hustlers still trying to get money from us. We offered one a dollar for letting us use his phone, he wanted 5. So he got none.

The Shuttle showed up and we piled into the back. The hustler still shouting for us to pay him.

Dakar itself is full of half constructed buildings, half empty buildings. and overcrowded buses. A few taller buildings dotted the landscape, but the most prevalent thing was the giant statue that sat on a hill in the city.
It was built by the North Koreans

(I didn’t even know this thing existed. It’s massive)

Then we made it to the hotel.
Which will come in Part two, but the power is about ready to get shut off for the night so I’m stopping here.

Leading up to Liberia

I’m sitting here in our walled house in Monrovia, waiting for the training to begin on Monday. So, let me take the time here to describe how I managed to get where I am.

Growing up, I remember my mother reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, and discussing the outbreak in Uganda in 2003. As my life progressed towards medicine in high school and into the Military as a medic, Ebola was always joked about as the ultimate bad guy – the bogyman of diseases. It’s ranking near The Black Death of the middle ages and the worst Small Pox outbreak.

A few photos and videos were shown of bodies being dragged out of village huts, and lab workers with air hoses working in plastic suits. This was what was in my head thinking about Ebola. A fearful disease in isolated Villages in the peoples Republic of Congo, Uganda, or other countries far away. I remember doing my power point presentation in Advanced Health about Ebola, and having people in class cringe as I clicked through it, describing its effects.

Ebola itself is something to be feared. The disease has various strains ranging in lethality from the non-lethal (to humans) strain, Ebola Reston, to Ebola Zaire with an estimated 90% fatality rate. The virus itself is a single stranded piece of RNA. It has a distinctive hook shape to it under an electron microscope. It infects those through blood, and other bodily fluids. However, it is not an airborne virus.

If your loved one dies from Ebola and some of their fluid infects you, you won’t notice symptoms for up to 21 days. The classical symptoms are flu-like; fever, joint pain, maybe a sore throat. These quickly progress to vomiting, diarrhea, and severe fluid loss before ultimately, death.

However, what shouldn’t be feared is an outbreak in the United States. Liberia has been a nation that was devastated by 14 years of civil war. It’s infrastructure is poor. There are more Doctors in most US countries than were in the nation of Liberia pre-outbreak. With proper supportive care, the chances of surviving are markedly higher. Supportive care that is plentiful in the United States, but sparse in Liberia.

I was watching the Rachael Maddow show, and they had a guest come in who spoke about the outbreak. How poor the situation was becoming over here. He mentioned to go to to help if you can.

So, that’s what I ended up doing. I walked in the other room of my home in my small town of Elkhart Indiana – with a pool and fenced in yard and all the amenities of the western world – to sign up to head over to a developing nation stricken by the disease that I’ve known about my whole life as a terrible thing.

Why do this?

Well, I never deployed when I was in the Military. I supported some troops who were getting ready to deploy over seas. It’s not that I didn’t try to volunteer (They only wanted female medics at the time), it just never came through. I did manage to do a single stateside mission in Gary, Indiana where I helped with disaster and flood relief. It was a really fulfilling and rewarding experience. It wasn’t sitting around at the armory moving boxes, or going to the range to shoot. We were actually helping people and that felt very rewarding.

So when Heart to Heart International made the call to me this last Saturday, I jumped at the opportunity. Here was my chance to do that again. A couple years had passed and I had gone from an EMT-B to an LPN. I could actually assist in care of patients who were sick.

I accepted the position and was told that I would leave by Thursday. I would have four days in order to get my life around before Jumping across the ocean. Then, they called again on Tuesday and asked if I could leave on Wednesday.

Monday, November 3rd was spent quickly hurrying from place to place trying to get Yellow Fever shots, Anti-Malaria pills and everything I needed for a Visa application. I was running from 8am to 5pm, when I finally dropped my application into the tiny Fed-Ex packet to be sent to the Liberian Embassy. Heart to Heart was amazing in how they handled all of this, every question I had – they answered. Hell, they managed to answer questions I hadn’t thought to ask yet.

Tuesday, November 4th was all packing and press interviews. Heart to Heart had put out a press release that I was leaving and from 10am till 5pm I was getting phone calls to do interviews. I think I did four TV and two newspapers. Like the article and Rachael Maddow show and news articles had inspired me to go, maybe someone would watch these and do the same. Judging from the comments on Facebook, the results were mixed.

Friends and family were scared, shocked, surprised and various other adjectives that star with the letter S. For the most part, they were understanding. As long as I’m careful and take care of myself, I will be safe.

Wednesday, November 5th,

D day. Departure from the United States. Goodbye to the western world that I had known my whole life, and onto another continent. We left at 5:30 AM for a 9:20 flight to DC, then a connecting flight to Dakar.

First Night in Liberia

I’m writing this from a guest house in Monrovia. There’s 8 of us. Well, 9 of us now, with the new guy that just walked in. We’re with an organization called Heart to Heart International. It’s an aid organization based out of Kansas. I’m an LPN or Licensed Practical Nurse. I’m from Indiana and I’m making this general first blog post in order to get things going. This isn’t an offical heart to heart blog and does not represent their views and all that other interesting legal mumbo jumbo.

On this page I’ll be documenting whats happening around me and how I’m handling it. This, once again, is a personal blog.

Right now I’m pretty jet lagged and don’t feel like writing much, but I will be when I feel up to it.