First Trust paramedic returns from Sierra Leone

Paramedic Pete Simpson says the time he spent fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone was both eye-opening and ‘tinged with sadness’.

The 51-year-old recently returned from the county’s capital, Freetown, where he spent five weeks helping coordinate a local ambulance team.

He said it was hard to leave before his work was complete but added that he is glad to get back to see his wife Wendy and his three children.

Pete experienced both highs and lows whilst away. He developed a traffic light triaging system which codes patients by the severity of their conditions and by their location.

Plans are now in the pipeline for local ambulances to be properly restocked and deep-cleaned after the completion of jobs. In addition, staff should receive improved manual handling training in the coming weeks.

While his work was not finished, Pete remains philosophical about his contribution: “I’m tinged with sadness but not seeing all of my tasks through has to be accepted. I didn’t get as much done as I wanted but it was pleasing that we managed to put in a triaging system.”

He says it was hard to see such a beautiful country ravaged by such a ruthless virus, which he says is yet to be controlled: “They haven’t got control of the outbreak. The government is pursuing plan A which is to simply provide more beds if more people fall sick but in my view plan A is not working.”

The Hellesden-based paramedic said those on the frontline in Sierra Leone are facing harrowing scenes every day: “We had a 15-year-old boy in an isolation centre who was told he had Ebola. In the next bed his four-year-old brother had just died and the five-year-old in the next bed was dying. The older boy stood a better chance of survival due to his age but he had just been told he had Ebola. How in the world do you break that sort of news to somebody?”

With much work still to be done, Pete hopes to return to West Africa to continue the work he started with the ambulance service – which he affectionately refers to as the ‘Ebola Warriors’. Other options include volunteering with a NGO vaccination programme or to work in a treatment centre.

On his departure from Sierra Leone, Pete passed Public Health England’s screening, and as he did not suffer a breach of his personal protective equipment (PPE) he was not required to spend time in quarantine. Daily checks will continue, but for now Pete plans to spend a few weeks readjusting, spending time with his wife Wendy and going on holiday.

Published 16th December 2014 

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