Nurse returns to Kettering General Hospital after helping people with Ebola in Sierra Leone

Kettering General Hospital nurse Mandy Blackman with the team in Sierra Leone
Kettering General Hospital nurse Mandy Blackman with the team in Sierra Leone

A nurse from Kettering General Hospital has described the importance of the international aid effort to prevent the spread of Ebola.

Mandy Blackman, 47, from Cotterstock, near Oundle, spent a month working at the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone from March 11 until April 15 this year.

Mandy Blackman from Kettering General Hospital in Sierra Leone

Mandy Blackman from Kettering General Hospital in Sierra Leone

Mandy is now back working at Kettering Hospital as an advanced clinical nurse practitioner in A&E.

In Sierra Leone she was working with the UK Med – the Manchester based medical emergency response charity – at a Centre run by the international charity Save the Children.

During her time in Sierra Leone she treated 16 Ebola patients, all of whom survived, and she worked six-hour day shifts and 12-hour night shifts including up to two spells per shift in full protective suits looking after infected patients.

She provided life-saving medical care for patients, including intravenous and oral rehydration, worked in an associated Ebola Survivors Clinic helping patients to restore their physical and mental health, and helped local health workers to develop the skills to continue to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone and to continue to develop their professional education.

One man I met had lost 27 members of his own family

Mandy Blackman

Mandy, who is married to Simon, and has one son, Tom, 19, said: “Although Ebola is no longer in the news it still remains a significant problem in Sierra Leone and some other West African countries.

“I was involved in aid efforts towards the end of the outbreak when the incidence of the disease began to lessen.

“Even so we witnessed the tremendous damage that the disease has caused to local communities and families in Sierra Leone.

“We saw examples where whole families had been devastated by the disease.

“One man I met had lost 27 members of his own family.

“The disease has also created considerable disruption to the country as a whole.

“All of the schools closed during the outbreak so all of the teachers were out of work.

“Education for children therefore stopped for about a year.

“A lot of employment opportunities – such as working for mining companies or in tourism – was lost when international companies pulled out of the country leading to wide scale unemployment.”

Mandy was part of an eight-strong international team from UK Med who relieved previous teams who had been working on month-long deployments at the centre.

The team lived about 10 miles from the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre at The Place Hotel, Tokeh Beach.

They commuted in each day to do a shift from 8am to 2pm, 2pm to 8pm or 8pm to 8am, looking after patients in the centre.

They worked four days on and two days off.

They also spent time working at an adjoining Ebola Survival Clinic - for people who had had the disease and survived - from 8am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday

Mandy said: “There have been some positives that have come out of this terrible epidemic.

“I think the international community played an important role in tackling the epidemic because local health services were just not able to take on the immense organisational challenges involved alone.

“Those challenges involved setting up Ebola Treatment Centres across the country to separate existing hospitals from Ebola cases – saving many lives.

“The facilities brought by Western aid agencies enabled us to assess, test and treat patients effectively and help to start their rehabilitation back into the community.

“They also provided important jobs for people at this difficult time and enabled health workers to gain valuable experience in infection control.

“I personally had a lot of satisfaction from supporting the effort.

“The team I worked in helped to save the lives of some 16 Ebola patients – aged from aged four to 58.”

Kettering General Hospital’s director of nursing, Leanne Hackshall, said: “The trust is very proud of Mandy and the work she has done to support and protect communities devastated by Ebola; what an accolade to be able to say that you have

helped to save the lives of 16 people with Ebola; amazing.

“We are really pleased that as a healthcare trust we were able to support Mandy to train and be part of the Ebola team, providing desperately needed humanitarian aid.”

On returning to the UK Mandy had to spend 21 days in relative isolation in her home and had to phone a contact in Public Health England twice a day to report on her health, which was fine.

To assist in the worldwide battle against the disease she has agreed to take part in a vaccine trial at Oxford Research Group to assist with the development of an Ebola vaccine.

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains.

It can cause disease in humans and non-human primates.

There have been more than 30,000 probable cases in West Africa (principally Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) with more than 11,000 deaths.

Sierra Leone has had more than 13,000 cases and almost 4.000 deaths

The UK has had one case and no deaths.