While many people in this part of the world are caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas a nurse practitioner normally stationed in the West Chilcotin is witnessing first-hand the devastating effects of the Ebola virus.
Patrice Gordon, who has nursed in the Chilcotin for nine years, left Canada on Nov. 26 to work at the Canadian Red Cross Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
With permission from Gordon, Interior Health has posted two dispatches with photographs from her on its Facebook page.
In her Dec. 4 post Gordon described a young boy who has lost his father (four days ago) and sister (just last night) to Ebola.
“His mother is in the Kenema ETC (Ebola Treatment Centre) too,” Gordon wrote. “She is also infected and too ill to care for him. The little boy needs such close care – really he needs someone next to him every minute to give him sips of fluids, keep him from pulling out his IV line, give him medications, keep him clean and as fresh as possible.”
But workers aren’t allowed to touch the patients as Gordon learned in Madrid, Spain where she attended Ebola training before travelling on to Africa.
In her Dec. 1 post Gordon described the training as “intense and sobering” but reassuring because of its “thoroughness.”
“One of the things that I anticipate finding difficult is the “no-touch” nature of the mission,” she wrote. “For obvious reasons, we can’t use touch as a means to give comfort to our patients, but we also can’t comfort our colleagues with a hug.
“When I reflect on the almost nil survival rate of children under the age of five who become infected with Ebola and then consider the natural impulse to comfort family and colleagues through touch … well, I can imagine that being very challenging.”
Gordon writes of having the “odd moment” of wondering what she’s doing there when she could be home hiking in the snow, but said those moments are fleeting.
“I do know why I’m doing it. It’s important to sometimes make those moves towards something that I can imagine might make the world a bit of a better place – even though it doesn’t always feel comfortable or familiar and is sometimes a bit scary even. But generally, I’m fully positive about it and keen to just get there and jump in.”
Gordon has worked for Interior Health since 2003. Prior to taking the NP posting in the West Chilcotin almost a year ago, she worked for eight years as the community outreach nurse at Alexis Creek.
“She loves it out there and the people really love her too,” said NP Sandi Lachapelle who was the nurse practitioner serving the West Chilcotin before Gordon.
IH communications officer Susan Duncan has been posting Gordon’s posts verbatim and said Gordon was very willing to share the information.
“It’s really gripping reading and fascinating information,” she said, adding when Gordon returns to Canada she will have to go into self-quarantine.
To follow Gordon’s posts go to Interior Health on Facebook.