People in the US are exposed to the spread of the Ebola virus through daily news and the word of a few infected citizens returning home for treatment.
But people in Western Africa, at ground zero for the virus, have to contend with family members and neighbors falling ill each day. Monia Sayah, an American nurse who has spent time in Guinea, explains that the fear is immense for African nationals on a constant basis, and it can feel like no one is doing anything to help. A common reaction is for the scared to go into hiding. With close to 3000 reported cases and nearly 1500 deaths thus far, the environment is frantic, and many cases go unreported due to hiding or lack of treatment.
In the midst of the virus and the fear it has created, nurses are fighting on the front lines and putting themselves in dangerous environments to give aid and care to victims. One particular story tells of triage units set up outside of hospitals in Sierra Leone which are operated by nurses who have traded in scrubs for full body suits, goggles, and two pairs of gloves. Doctors Without Borders nurse, Monia Sayah, speaks to the mentality of both domestic and foreign nurses fighting when she says, “my colleagues, myself, and my national staff are not afraid.” Reminiscent of Florence Nightingale, many nurses who are working on the front lines are doing so without the endorsement of their families and friends who urge these nurses to stay out of the path of the deadly virus.
That mindset may be one of the only ways that ground can be broken against Ebola, and it is infinitely admirable the dedication that nurses on the front lines in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and other African nations are showing. So far 250 healthcare workers have contracted the virus during their efforts to provide treatment. The risk is real, but some fearless nurses are serving a higher cause. In grim times these nurses are a ray of light and an extreme representation of the responsibilities, duties, and life of a nurse.
Monia Sayah has returned from her time in Guinea but is already planning to return. She vows, “When you're there and you see how much needs to be done,” she said, “there is not a question of ‘should I go back or not?’”