Monday, April 13, 2015

Demolishing the Maforki Ebola Treatment Unit

Christian Bain is one of the extraordinary nurses I worked with in Port Loko. He arrived in Sierra Leone shortly after I did and stayed after I left. He was recently evacuated with 15 other people who had been exposed to another health worker who developed Ebola virus disease (EVD). He's back in Sierra Leone and has been sending me photographs of the Maforki Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) as it is being demolished:


 Of the four of us who arrived in Maforki in early November, Chris, Jennifer, Larry, and me, I am the only person who has not returned to Sierra Leone. Larry was one of the people evacuated last month. Chris and Jennifer are still there.

Chris and Larry

Jennifer with Paul Farmer

One of the doctors who arrived in Port Loko shortly before I left noted that I was "outside of the demographic"; I was the only person with a young child at home. The rest either had no children or had adult children.

I don't know what happened at the government hospital in Port Loko. I don't even know the name of the health worker who developed EVD and was evacuated to National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. I never saw the inside of the government hospital while I was in Port Loko.

I can tell you that, after taking the CDC's Ebola safety course, I felt adequately prepared to work in an ETU. One of the things we were told repeatedly is that our own safety was our first priority and not to walk into a situation in which there was any doubt about our personal safety. I took that message very seriously.

I will also tell you that I worked with some of the most admirable, compassionate people I have ever met, many of whom quit jobs to work in the Ebola response. Everyone I worked with, both expatriate and local staff, was highly professional and brought a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experiences to the table. Working with them was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.


The Ebola epidemic is not over and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Because immunization programs were interrupted by the epidemic, there could be more measles deaths than Ebola deaths in West Africa. Other health care services were unavailable during the epidemic and many children are only now returning to school.

Partners In Health and other non-governmental organizations will remain in West Africa after the Ebola epidemic ends to help rebuild the health care infrastructure. I would be proud to work with PIH again.

A couple of my colleagues in Port Loko have blogs that I highly recommend:

A Canticle for Lazarus Martha Phillips arrived in Port Loko shortly before I left. Her writing is heartfelt, poetic, and inspiring. Time spent reading her blog is time well-spent!

Nurse Nick Nick Sarchet is quoted in the New York Times article published yesterday about Partners In Health and their work in Port Loko. Nick had an exposure while I was in Port Loko and was evacuated in December (Breach). He returned to Sierra Leone in February and was evacuated again last month.

Nick and Paul Farmer

Christian and me


  1. I feel very fortunate to have worked with this dedicated Port Loko family. Matthew (Christian, Larry and Nick) thank you for orienting me to the Hot Zone. I am happy Christian has decontaminated then destroyed the Confirmed Ward - like the Death Star !

    1. Thanks Tracy!

      I am so grateful that we had your pediatric expertise.

      In a previous post, I talked about the girl we saw with the bizarre neurological symptoms. I doubt she would have survived if you hadn't been at her bedside.

      Christian told me that she's home and doing well.