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Staff honoured in Ebola fight

Three Poole Hospital staff members have received specially minted medals from the Government in recognition of their efforts to fight Ebola in west Africa.

Ebola medals

Biomedical scientists Nathan Bourne and Lucy Jones, and biomedical support worker Louise Redcar, travelled to Sierra Leone in January and February this year to use their pathology expertise to diagnose cases of the deadly disease.

Working in hot, dusty and basic conditions, they processed samples received from patients with Ebola-like symptoms to determine if the illness was present. Across the region, during the epidemic more than 11,000 people are reported to have died from the illness - almost 4,000 of these in Sierra Leone - from more than 27,000 reported cases.

In recognition of the healthcare workers, laboratory staff, medics, and military personnel who responded to the region’s plea for help, the Prime Minister established the Ebola Medal, to be given to all who made a contribution to restricting the spread of the epidemic.

Ebola medal reverseThe trio’s medals were presented by Debbie Fleming, chief executive of the hospital, at a special ceremony on Thursday, watched by colleagues from the pathology department, as well as friends and family.

Explaining why she chose to fly out, Lucy says: “This was a chance for me to use my qualifications and knowledge to do something incredibly worthwhile.

“It was very difficult physically and emotionally, we were living with doctors and nurses and we heard about the awful things happening from them. Despite that I felt very safe there.”

Lucy and Louise were based at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Port Loco, although at different times during their five week placement.

Louise said the sheer scale of the unfolding epidemic that drove her to volunteer. “It was the severity of it that grabbed me – something inside me told me I needed to help,” said Louise. “My family were slightly concerned but I would do it again.

“Seeing the amount of death and devastation it left behind, the mass graves, the people there were so friendly and welcoming and they were humbled that we were there to help.”

Nathan has remained in contact with some of the people he met at his placement at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Makeni.

“The people there took care of us so well and we tried to get to know them, I’m still in touch with some of them on Facebook,” he said.

“I’m flattered to receive this recognition, I didn’t expect it. The experience has taught me about resilience - these people went through so much yet kept smiling and kept faith. It’s given me a different outlook on life.”

Presenting the trio with their medals, Debbie told them: “When you cast your mind back to the news, and how horrified and helpless everyone was, lots of people wanted to do something.

“Yet very few people had the courage, commitment and selflessness to do what you did.

“I’m humbled and proud that three people from Poole Hospital were prepared to do what you did.”

Before flying out they each received specialist training at the Government’s defence science and laboratory facility at Porton Down.

Around 3,000 civilians and military personnel from the UK contributed to the efforts to stop Ebola spreading in west Africa.

Date:  September 25 2015

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