British doctor’s Ebola diary

A Huddersfield doctor is on the front line in the fight against the deadly ebola virus. Dr Geraldine O’Hara has flown out to Sierra Leone to join a dedicated team of medics trying to halt the spread of the terrible disease“. Huddersfield Daily Examiner – 22/10/14

Listening to the BBC Today programme this morning, as I often do, I found out about a remarkable woman I had not heard of before today, as it featured today’s episode of infectious diseases specialist Dr Geraldine O’Hara’s audio diary from Sierra Leone. Her daily diary was matter of fact yet touching, full of sadness yet full of hope, full of emotions ranging from apprehension to elation, detailing incidents both of death when life was hoped for and life when death seemed likely, recording daily happenings as she went about her work that ranged from the simple to the sublime, describing the tragedy of this deadly outbreak and the triumph of the human spirit, especially when those most affected by the tragedy proved to be so heroic and caring, all in each single recording. It is difficult to articulate the full range of my own emotions as I listened to the recording and later to those from the other days, on the Today website. I realised there is a big need and as is often is the case only a small part of it is being met, but then only because of people like Dr Geraldine. Then there was a thought yet again that life is short and we can and should make a difference.

The Huddersfield Daily Examiner then quotes her words: “I’ve worked for Médecins Sans Frontières before in Somalia. Why am I here? It’s a complex mixture of professional and personal reasons. Infection is my major professional interest, I can see things we very rarely see in the UK. This outbreak is unprecedented in terms of size so there’s valuable experience to be gained. Personally, we have the capacity to control this and stop it spreading with simple measures such as hand washing, disinfectant, separating sick people from well people, encouraging safe burial practices. And people are suffering and dying unnecessarily; our responsibility to each other as human beings is we should alleviate suffering. There are doctors and nurses here from Canada, Holland, the US, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Ireland amongst others who all feel the same that something can be done and should be done and we can contribute to it. None of us are special, none of us are heroes”.

I would take issue with the last statement – although it is often the case that people’s motives are complex and mixed, but this lady is special and a hero, and the world is a better place because of her.

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