One of the Lucky Ones—Working to Keep Others Safe

Rose Laropellah is one of the lucky ones. Three of her colleagues at the private health clinic where she works in Monrovia, Liberia, were not. They died after contracting Ebola. Rose, a 41-year-old nurse and officer-in-charge at the clinic, was exposed to Ebola, when she and colleagues treated their first Ebola case in July 2014. The woman stayed for about three days and “then she got worse and she went to church to pray and this is where she died,” Rose recalled.

Rose and other colleagues who had treated the patient were placed in quarantine for 21 days. “But none of us came down sick,” Rose said.

Rose has witnessed first hand the devastating effects of Ebola among her fellow Liberians. The country suffered 4,809 deaths from the disease during the main outbreak and subsequent outbreaks. Of the 378 health care workers who were infected in Liberia, 192 lost their lives.

Rose’s clinic lacked the capacity to manage and treat Ebola cases. When a second patient, a pastor, arrived at the clinic with Ebola in August, clinic doctors tried to refuse treatment, but the patient would not leave. The pastor died and a janitor, student nurse and nurse who had been in contact with him became infected with the disease and also died. The clinic subsequently closed for three months, and reopened in November 2014.

And when the clinic reopened, Jhpiego provided Rose and her colleagues with the training in appropriate infection and prevention control practices to work safely and protect their clients. “Before, we had no idea how to deal with infection. Now all of our health workers are aware of how to protect themselves. Every time we have a suspect case, we are very strict about how we deal with them,” Rose explained.

“Besides Ebola, the biggest challenges we face as health workers is the lack of materials to work with. We often get people coming here who need treatment who can’t afford it,” Rose explained. Recognizing their good fortune, Rose and her colleagues regularly set aside some of their own money for people who cannot pay for their own care.

The dedication and commitment Rose and her staff show to keep their patients and themselves healthy and safe will help Liberia to remain Ebola-free into the future.