Dec 05, 2014
Inside the Ebola treatment center, areas are strictly identified as high-risk, low risk and the outside which is with unknown risk. Only trained medical staff and supportive personnel are authorized to work inside the high-risk area. For every entry into high-risk area, we are required to wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and strictly comply with the infection control guidelines. A complete set of PPE includes scrub suits and pants, boots, two pairs of gloves, masks, head covers, apron, goggles and waterproof gown. I would say, the weight of this PPE is far more than that.
I still remember that morning, when I had just put on the PPE and was ready to enter the high-risk area, my colleagues stopped and invited me to pray with them. I said no because I have no religion. They said: "Please join, we are a team, let's pray together and give blessing to each other". At this moment, I had no reason to refuse anymore. We held our hands together and formed a circle. Somebody led the prayer and as I did not know how to pray, what I did was just keeping my eyes closed, sincerely. We then gave blessing and said "Be safe" to each other after praying. "Be safe". We made it seriously. Working in an Ebola treatment center, safety is always the most important concern and comes to the highest priority for sure.
In fact, the prayer was not long. It took about thirty seconds. However, that short span of time made me understand how much stress our staff have been receiving when working in an Ebola treatment center. I would say, the management of Ebola is a smokeless war. When PPE is put on and the fence for entering the high-risk area is opened, the war begins. The most frightening part is that we know the enemy is inside, but it is invisible and untouchable. Fear comes from unknown. The uncertainty makes us work very vigilantly. We slow down our pace, and do our best to reduce the chance of making mistakes, and even a very tiny mistake has to be eliminated. In this situation, what we can rely on is the PPE we wore and the compliance of the infection control guidelines.
My colleagues told me they are not just worried about their own health but also their family. If they get contaminated accidentally or unwittingly, the disease will be transmitted to the family members and even the community. I totally understand that, because Hong Kong had also been attacked by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. At that time, medical staff were not willing to return home, fearing that they might bring virus home unwittingly and infect the family.
The weight of the PPE is indeed much heavier than an armor in a real war, because everyone bears the responsibility not only to themselves but also their families and even the community since you put the PPE on.