THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - As her family and friends prepare to have a white Christmas back home, Patrice Gordon will don a "spacesuit" in extreme heat and help patients infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone.
The nurse practicioner with the Interior Health Authority, who hails from Nakusp, signed up as a volunteer with the Red Cross and is in Africa.
Beyond her role as nurse, she regularly shares her humbling experiences as a humanitarian through blog posts on the organization's website.
"The news that Time magazine has named Ebola fighters Person of the Year has also been a great morale booster here for patients and healthcare providers," Gordon says."Every day I get emails and Facebook messages with words of support and love for the people of Sierra Leone. I delight in passing those messages over the fence, and watching faces light up. It’s so important to let patients know the world is watching and caring."
The plight of Ebola patients and of the medical personnel who are trying to help them fight the disease is unimaginable to many. But through her writing, Gordon allows readers to peer into her world.
"I thought I was prepared for what I'd see here but now I know you can't truly be prepared. It's beautiful, ugly, wonderful, awful, tragic and hopeful; all wrapped in one package," she says.
Gordon says due to the heat she can only wear her Personal Protective Equipment for only an hour at a time. If she feels lightheaded due to dehydration when she's wearing the suit and she has to leave the centre immediately to account for the ten minutes it will take to undress and sterilize.
Her latest patient is a young boy whose father and sister have died from the disease. His mother, also infected with Ebola, is too sick to care for him. Looking after the child is a full-time job for Gordon and the rest of her team as they try to keep him clean, ensure he drinks fluids and prevent him from pulling out his intravenous line.
"We work in teams or pairs to provide care or move people, so there can be gaps when no one is with him in the high-risk area. When we're out of (our protective gear), we can be at the double fence around the area to see and talk to him, but we can't touch or physically help him," she says.
Despite the emotional work, Gordon knows her group is making a difference.
"I want a magic wand to get rid of this virus. But I'm glad I'm here. We are helping to give people their greatest chance for survival," she says. "It's hard to feel fully human inside our (gear), but people can feel our touch, hear our voices, and see our eyes caring for them. We are helping people to still hope, when they have many reasons to feel hopeless."
To make a donation to the Canadian Red Cross West Africa Ebola Fund go to www.redcross.ca/donate.
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