DiversityNursing Blog

'Fearless' Ebola Nurse Trains At Emory University

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Apr 13, 2015 @ 10:29 AM

By Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield

www.cnn.com

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Just eight months ago, a young woman named Fatu Kekula was single-handedly trying to save her Ebola-stricken family, donning trash bags to protect herself against the deadly virus. 

Today, because of a CNN story and the generosity of donors from around the world, Kekula wears scrubs bearing the emblem of the Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in Atlanta, where she's learning skills she can take back home to care for her fellow Liberians. 

"It's a surprise -- a young child like me who came from a very poor background coming to the U.S.," she said. "I'm thankful to CNN and I appreciate the people who made donations, and I'm thankful to Emory for accepting me to study."

At Emory, Kekula has asked for special training on certain skills, such as caring for burns, a common type of injury because children in Liberia sometimes fall into the open fires used for cooking. 

One of her instructors, Kelly Fullwood, said Kekula's an excellent student who has taught her teachers a thing or two about how to do procedures without costly equipment, as she's been forced to do in Liberia. 

"She fascinates me every day," Fullwood said. "She gets nursing. She gets what it's about."

Kekula, 23, was just a year away from finishing up her nursing degree in Liberia when Ebola struck and her mother, father, sister and cousin came down with the disease. Hospitals were full and no doctors would visit her home, so with just advice from a physician on the phone, Kekula took care of all four of her relatives at the same time. 

All but her cousin survived -- a high success rate considering that at the time, about 70% of Ebola patients were dying in Liberia.

Kekula couldn't continue her nursing education in Liberia, because the schools had closed. 

A CNN story about Kekula in September prompted donations from around the world to IAM, an organization that raises money to help African natives pay for education. 

David Smith, an associate dean at Emory's nursing school, said they accepted Kekula because they were struck by how both she and Emory each treated four Ebola patients at around the same time last year -- and Emory had dozens of doctors and nurses and millions of dollars in technology while Kekula had nobody and nearly no supplies.

"It was obvious to us that this woman was intelligent and strong and fearless," he said. 

Kekula is scheduled to return to Liberia in August. 

"These things that I have learned here I am going to take back to my fellow nurses," she said. "I love to care for people. I love to save lives."

Topics: medical school, Ebola, West Africa, nurse, hospital, medicine, Liberia, Emory University, CNN, nursing degree

A Nurse Decides to Get Hands-On in the Ebola Zone

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jan 19, 2015 @ 11:03 AM

By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS

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Lindsey Hallen is in the bug spray aisle at REI, the outdoor equipment emporium in SoHo, looking for exactly the right mosquito repellent to take to West Africa’s Ebola zone, when her phone rings. Three ascending tones, the personal anthem of an emergency room nurse, captured in a ringtone called “Summit.”

“Hello?” she says, pulling the phone out of her jacket pocket. Then in an aside, “I think this is them.”

Ms. Hallen listens, pacing back and forth along the aisle, as her gaunt face takes on the same wide-eyed look of concentration it assumes as when she works in the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Total Focus. Matter of Life and Death.

Since the latest Ebola outbreak entered public consciousness, most accounts of United States health workers have focused on the ones returning; the missionaries who were airlifted out and brought back from the brink of death, or Craig Spencer, the young doctor cured of the virus at New York City’s premier public hospital, Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, while much of the city held its breath.

Now Ms. Hallen, a 31-year-old nurse with two years’ experience working with critically ill patients in this country, is going the other way, heading to West Africa to fight an epidemic that has sickened 21,000 people and killed more than 8,000.

“Why?” her friends and colleagues invariably ask when they find out what she is doing. Why would a relatively young, untested nurse want to risk putting her life in jeopardy to help save people living thousands of miles away, people sick and dying of a brutal, bleeding, contagious fever?

The question annoys her. Her reasons are instinctive, from the gut. You feel driven to do this or you don’t. The thinking only comes later.

“Why not?” she replies. “Why not me?” So the phone call shakes her. The woman on the other end of the line is a recruiter for Partners in Health, the Boston organization that is sending her to West Africa. Instead of Sierra Leone, as had been planned, the group now wants her to go to Liberia, the woman says. Ebola cases there have fallen, but they need people who can rebuild the shattered medical system, teach about controlling infection. She won’t have direct contact with patients. Yes, she can still go to Sierra Leone if she wants to, and take care of patients there. The final decision is up to her.

So the choice is this: Be an instructor, safe, teaching other people how to wear a protective suit, or be the one wearing the suit. She is given a day to decide.

Ebola officially reached American shores on Sept. 30, when Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian visiting family in Dallas, tested positive for the virus. Preparing for a possible onslaught, Lenox Hill Hospital set up a room within the emergency department where Ebola patients would be isolated. The staff had to be trained in wearing protective gear, the stifling, fluid-proof layers that include bootees, gloves, gowns, goggles and face shields. The more Ms. Hallen learned, the more she wanted to know. She volunteered for advanced training. She started lingering on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I was looking at the case numbers and I started to become a little obsessed with everything that was going on over there, and how it was impacting us here,” she said.

She spoke of her newfound interest to her older sister, Kimberly, a real estate photographer, who sensed that this was more than a casual attraction. “She texted me saying she had volunteered to train how to handle Ebola if it came to New York City,” Kimberly recalled. “In the back of my head, I was like, ‘Oh, God, I feel like this is going to expand into her wanting to do a little bit more.’ But I kind of put it away. Maybe not.”

“She’s always been like this ever since she was little,” Kimberly Hallen said. “She was always the one who was trying to find the next fun thing to do. She was bored so easily.”

Lindsey Hallen, a slight blonde with eyes that shift from green to blue depending on the weather and her mood, grew up in suburban Cheshire, Conn., and was a communications major in college, but not a very serious one. “I was very social and that was what I cared about,” she said. After graduation, she moved to Hawaii, without knowing anyone or even having visited. “I was amazed how well everything fell into place,” she said.

She worked at an animal clinic and went to South Africa on an unpaid internship in wildlife conservation. After two years, she moved to Boston, where her sister lives, and began working at Global Vision International, the organization that had sponsored her internship. Her job sent her to South Africa, Guatemala and Costa Rica, to make sure projects were running smoothly. As a memento, she wears three bracelets on her right arm made of twisted copper and brass that she bought at street markets in South Africa. She never took them off, but she had to leave them with her sister before departing for Africa.

After three years, she wanted to grow. She thought about veterinary school, but she also wanted to travel. “Nursing came to mind as a perfect middle ground,” she said. Now, after two years in the E.R., the dread that she has done something wrong no longer wakes her at night. She can rattle off the medical script for an alcoholic with the shakes, a child with the flu or an elderly woman with a broken hip like someone reciting a Social Security number.

There has to be more to life than the three-block dash from her Upper East Side brownstone studio to the 8-a.m.-to-8-p.m. shift at Lenox Hill, and back.

The Ebola patient in Dallas died on Oct. 8, having set off a rapid chain of events. Two nurses who treated him fell ill, shaking confidence in the United States health care system. In mid-October, several New York hospitals volunteered to be Ebola treatment centers, including a sister hospital to Lenox Hill. On Oct. 23, Dr. Spencer, recently returned from Guinea, was rushed to Bellevue and tested positive. The next day, Kaci Hickox, a nurse returning from Sierra Leone through Newark Liberty International Airport, was forced into quarantine because of public officials’ fears.

Rather than being frightened, Ms. Hallen was swept away. Ebola was her 9/11, the disaster that nourished her sense of purpose.

Scrolling through the C.D.C. website, she came across a link to an application form for medical volunteers willing to go to West Africa, kind of like a universal college application online.

She recalls sending it in a few days after Ms. Hickox returned. Her first response, from Partners in Health, arrived on Halloween night. She sent back an email as she dressed for a Halloween party. She was not a sexy witch, or even a nurse. She wore a $12 zombie suit with a zipper splitting her face.

Still, she didn’t really think it would happen. And she assumed that even if she were selected, she would not be paid, and she could not afford that. But Partners in Health agreed to pay for her travel, expenses and medical insurance, as well as provide a stipend that would cover most of her lost salary for nine weeks; six weeks in West Africa and three weeks upon her return, during the disease’s incubation period. As a single person, she didn’t have to worry about disrupting anyone else’s life.

The agency also agreed to pay for her evacuation if she contracted Ebola — a further reminder of the dangers.

Her mother, Laura, cried when she heard the news. Her father, Dan, “had a million questions” but was proud of her.

“I think that she’s got the right mentality to perform in this type of environment,” Mr. Hallen said. “I guess what I would liken it to is firefighters that rush into a burning building when everyone else is running out. All I can say to that is, thank God for them. Where would we be without them?”

That mentality is not widely shared, the numbers suggest.

Since November, about 1,300 people have applied to travel to West Africa through Partners in Health, and about 360 have been hired, Sheila Davis, chief of the agency’s Ebola response, said. She said she was still looking for people with the right “humility,” but the number of applicants has declined as Ebola has moved off the front pages.

North Shore-LIJ Health System, the hospital network that includes Lenox Hill, has 54,000 employees. Ms. Hallen is only the second one to go to West Africa to treat Ebola, Joseph Moscola, the system’s chief of human resources, said. An informal survey of other New York City hospitals found few if any volunteers at most of them.

At some hospitals an internal debate rages over whether highly trained specialists should be volunteering to do menial work in African field hospitals or can make a better contribution at home, perhaps by doing Ebola research.

“Major academic institutions, you would think, would be those who would be pushing it,” Ms. Davis said. “But it’s the opposite. It’s definitely been Middle America, and California, but not the numbers you would think in Boston and New York.”

In preparation for Ms. Hallen’s trip, Partners in Health sent her a packing list. Mostly it is similar to a list for summer sleep-away camp: shampoo, toothbrush, underwear. But not entirely. She will need a headlamp, in case the electricity goes down, and some fancier clothes to wear for Embassy events. Also, styptic pencils to stanch cuts, and tampons, for nosebleeds, ominous inclusions in an environment where bodily fluids may be deadly. Ms. Hallen has scratched out the word “condoms.” She has enough contagion to worry about, she said. She trades email with other volunteers. Bring washable shoes, they say. Dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, to break the monotony of rice and beans.

She picks up her mosquito net at REI and jokes that she might use it to keep away the cockroaches in her apartment. Last night she slept with a hat on, haunted by a woman who had arrived at the emergency room with ear pain. The diagnosis: a cockroach stuck in her ear canal.

At the checkout counter, the brooding, longhaired salesman examines her basket and asks where she is going. “Sierra Leone or Liberia,” she replies.

“You should read this book,” he says, and on a scrap of paper writes the name Peter Piot, author of a memoir about the discovery of Ebola and AIDS.

The next night, she writes an email to the recruiter from Partners in Health. Deletes it. Writes it again. Presses “send” at 11:42 p.m.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, she was scheduled to fly to Sierra Leone, to care for people who are sick and dying of Ebola.

Source: www.nytimes.com

Topics: illness, sick, Ebola, outbreak, West Africa, epidemic, nursing, nurse, disease, medical, patients, hospital, treatment

Woman Who Saved Relatives From Ebola Coming To U.S. For Nursing School

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, Dec 12, 2014 @ 10:18 AM

By Jen Christensen and Elizabeth Cohen

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A young Liberian woman who saved three of her relatives by nursing them back to health after they contracted the Ebola virus is coming to the United States to finish her nursing degree.

The news comes as Time magazine announced Wednesday that its "Person of the Year" honors go to the Ebola fighters, the "unprecedented numbers" of doctors and nurses who responded when Ebola overtook an already-weak public health infrastructure this year in West Africa.

Fatu Kekula is not named in the article, but she definitely holds a place among those being honored.

The 22-year-old, who was in her final year of nursing school earlier this year, single-handedly took care of her father, mother, sister and cousin when they became ill with Ebola beginning in July.

And she did so with remarkable success. Three out of her four patients survived. That's a 25% death rate -- considerably better than the estimated Ebola death rate of 70%.

Kekula stayed healthy, which is noteworthy considering that hundreds of health care workers have become infected with Ebola, and she didn't even have personal protection equipment -- those white space suits and goggles used in Ebola treatment units.

Instead, Kekula invented her own equipment. International aid workers heard about her "trash bag method" and taught it to other West Africans who can't get into hospitals and don't have protective gear of their own.

Every day, several times a day for about two weeks, Kekula put trash bags over her socks and tied them in a knot over her calves. Then she put on a pair of rubber boots and then another set of trash bags over the boots.

She wrapped her hair in a pair of stockings and over that a trash bag. Next she donned a raincoat and four pairs of gloves on each hand, followed by a mask.

It was an arduous and time-consuming process, but she was religious about it, never cutting corners.

UNICEF Spokeswoman Sarah Crowe said Kekula is amazing.

"Essentially this is a tale of how communities are doing things for themselves," Crowe said. "Our approach is to listen and work with communities and help them do the best they can with what they have."

She emphasized, of course, that it would be better for patients to be in real hospitals with doctors and nurses in protective gear -- it's just that those things aren't available to many West Africans.

No one knows that better than Kekula.

Her Ebola nightmare started July 27, when her father, Moses, had a spike in blood pressure. She took him to a hospital in their home city of Kakata.

A bed was free because a patient had just passed away. What no one realized at the time was that the patient had died of Ebola.

Moses, 52, developed a fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Then the hospital closed down because nurses started dying of Ebola.

Kekula took her father to Monrovia, the capital city, about a 90-minute drive via difficult roads. Three hospitals turned him away because they were full.

She took him back to another hospital in Kakata. They said he had typhoid fever and did little for him, so Kekula took him home, where he infected three other family members: Kekula's mother, Victoria, 57; Kekula's sister, Vivian, 28, and their 14-year-old cousin who was living with them, Alfred Winnie.

While operating her one-woman Ebola hospital for two weeks, Kekula consulted with their family doctor, who would talk to her on the phone, but wouldn't come to the house. She gave them medicines she obtained from the local clinic and fluids through intravenous lines that she started.

At times, her patients' blood pressure plummeted so low she feared they would die.

"I cried many times," she said. "I said 'God, you want to tell me I'm going to lose my entire family?' "

But her father, mother, and sister rallied and were well on their way to recovery when space became available at JFK Medical Center on August 17. Alfred never recovered, though, and passed away at the hospital the next day.

"I'm very, very proud," Kekula's father said. "She saved my life through the almighty God."

Her father immediately began working to find a scholarship for Kekula, so she could finish her final year of nursing school. But the Ebola epidemic shut down many of Liberia's schools, including hers.

After a story about Kekula ran on CNN in September, many people wanted to help her.

A non-profit group called iamprojects.org also got involved.

With some help, Kekula applied to Emory University in Atlanta, the campus with the hospital that has successfully cared for American Ebola patients. Emory accepted the young woman so that she could complete her nursing degree starting this winter semester.

In order to attend, iamprojects will have to raise $40,000 to pay for her reduced tuition rate, living expenses, books and her travel and visa so that she can travel between Africa and the United States.

Kekula's father has no doubt that his daughter will go on to save many more people during her lifetime.

"I'm sure she'll be a great giant of Liberia," he said.

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: medical school, Ebola, West Africa, travel, education, nursing, health, nurse, medicine, death, treatment, degree, Liberia

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg And Wife Donate $25 Million To Fight Ebola

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 15, 2014 @ 11:34 AM

By  JAMES MARTIN

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan are donating $25 million to the CDC Foundation to help fight the Ebola epidemic, which has taken the lives of more than 4,000 people and continues to rage out of control in West Africa.

The donation will be used for the CDC Ebola response effort in the most severely affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and other areas of the world where the disease poses the greatest threat, the foundation said Tuesday.

"The Ebola epidemic is at a critical turning point," Zuckerberg said Tuesday in a statement posted on Facebook. "It has infected 8,400 people so far, but it is spreading very quickly and projections suggest it could infect 1 million people or more over the next several months if not addressed."

The CDC Foundation says the money will go towards urgent needs on the ground, including equipping community care centers, hiring and training local staff, identifying Ebola cases and tracing contacts, vehicles to be used for specimen transport, burial support, and translation services and communications -- all of which it says are vital to fighting the outbreak.

"The most important step we can take is to stop Ebola at its source," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement. "The sooner the world comes together to help West Africa, the safer we all will be." He said today's "significant contribution from Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan will help us rapidly advance the fight against Ebola."

Source: www.cbsnews.com

Topics: Ebola, West Africa, epidemic, Mark Zuckerberg, Dr. Priscilla Chan, CDC, Facebook, donation

Second American Infected With Ebola

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jul 28, 2014 @ 12:28 PM

By Joe Sutton and Holly Yan

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A second American aid worker in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola, according to the Christian humanitarian group she works for.

Nancy Writebol is employed by Serving in Mission, or SIM, in Liberia and was helping the joint SIM/Samaritan's Purse team that is treating Ebola patients in Monrovia, according to a Samaritan's Purse statement.

Writebol, who serves as SIM's personnel coordinator, has been living in Monrovia with her husband, David, according to SIM's website. The Charlotte, North Carolina, residents have been in Liberia since August 2013, according to the blog Writebols2Liberia. They have two adult children.

On Saturday, Samaritan's Purse announced that American doctor Kent Brantly had become infected. The 33-year-old former Indianapolis resident had been treating Ebola patients in Monrovia and started feeling ill, spokeswoman Melissa Strickland said. Once he started noticing the symptoms last week, Brantly isolated himself.

Brantly, the medical director for Samaritan Purse's Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia, has been in the country since October, Strickland said.

"When the Ebola outbreak hit, he took on responsibilities with our Ebola direct clinical treatment response, but he was serving in a missionary hospital in Liberia prior to his work with Ebola patients," she said.

Deadliest Ebola outbreak

Health officials say the Ebola outbreak, centered in West Africa, is the deadliest ever.

As of July 20, some 1,093 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are thought to have been infected by Ebola since its symptoms were first observed four months ago, according to the World Health Organization.

Testing confirmed the Ebola virus in 786 of those cases; 442 of those people died.

Of the 1,093 confirmed, probable and suspected cases, 660 people have died.

There also are fears the virus could spread to Africa's most populous country, Nigeria.

Last week, a Liberian man hospitalized with Ebola in Lagos died, Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said.

Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, has a population of more than 20 million.

The man arrived at Lagos airport on July 20 and was isolated in a local hospital after showing symptoms associated with the virus. He told officials he had no direct contact with anyone with the virus nor had he attended the burial of anyone who died of Ebola.

Another doctor infected

Confirmation of the death in Lagos came after news that a doctor who has played a key role in fighting the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone is infected with the disease, according to that country's Ministry of Health.

Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan is being treated by the French aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres -- also known as Doctors Without Borders -- in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, agency spokesman Tim Shenk said.

Before falling ill, Khan had been overseeing Ebola treatment and isolation units at Kenema Government Hospital, about 185 miles east of the capital, Freetown.

Ebola typically kills 90% of those infected, but the death rate in this outbreak has dropped to roughly 60% because of early treatment.

Spread by bodily fluids

Officials believe the Ebola outbreak has taken such a strong hold in West Africa because of the proximity of the jungle -- where the virus originated -- to Conakry, Guinea, which has a population of 2 million.

Because symptoms don't immediately appear, the virus can easily spread as people travel around the region. Once infected with the virus, many people die in an average of 10 days as the blood fails to clot and hemorrhaging occurs.

The disease isn't contagious until symptoms appear. Symptoms include fever, headache and fatigue. At that point, the Ebola virus is spread via bodily fluids.

Health workers are at especially high risk, because they are in close contact with infected people and their bodily fluids. Adding to the danger, doctors may mistake the initial stages of an Ebola infection for another, milder illness.

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: virus, World Health Organization, Ebola, outbreak, West Africa, deadly, infected, doctor

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