‘No re­grets’ but nurse won’t go back

Pauline’s fight for life af­ter con­tract­ing deadly virus

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Staff re­porter

The Cam­bus­lang nurse who was the first per­son from the UK to con­tract Ebola says she will not go back to fight the dis­ease for the sake of her fam­ily.

Nine months ago Pauline Caf­fer­key (39), spent 21 days fight­ing for her life in Lon­don’s Royal Free Hos­pi­tal af­ter catch­ing the deadly virus while treat­ing vic­tims in the highly in­fec­tious “red zone” in Sierra Leone.

Speak­ing to the Re­former’s sis­ter pa­per, the Sun­day Mail, Pauline said she had no re­grets about go­ing out to fight the epi­demic.

She said: “Peo­ple ask me why I went to Sierra Leone in the first place and I tell them, why not? I had the skills and the train­ing to help. There were no rea­sons not to go.

“The epi­demic needed to be stopped and I couldn’t just sit around and watch what was hap­pen­ing on TV. I needed to get out there and do some­thing.

“I have no re­grets about go­ing. I just got un­lucky. I would go back to Sierra Leone or another Ebola-stricken coun­try in a heart­beat but I wouldn’t do that to my fam­ily.

“I feel guilty ev­ery day when I think of what my friends and fam­ily must have gone through while I lay in a bed in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

“It was touch and go for a while and the tor­ment for them must have been un­bear­able. Hav­ing nursed other vic­tims, I knew how hor­rific I must be look­ing and I didn’t want them to see me like that. I was in iso­la­tion and they could only watch help­less from be­hind a win­dow.

“When I got out of hos­pi­tal, they would not let me out of their sight. I think if I told them I was head­ing back to Sierra Leone, they would throw them­selves in front of the plane. I could not put them through that worry again. It would not be fair of me.”

Pauline, who had spent a month work­ing at Save the Chil­dren’s Kerry Town treat­ment cen­tre near Sierra Leone’s cap­i­tal Free­town, re­alised she had the virus when she re­turned to Glas­gow on De­cem­ber 28.

She said: “I started to feel un­well when I was back in my flat. I con­tacted the Brown­lee Cen­tre im­me­di­ately. They did blood tests and gave me the news I was dread­ing – I had Ebola. I knew I’d a fight on my hands but I was ready for it.

“I was trans­ferred to the Royal Free and put in an iso­la­tion unit. For the first while I felt OK. I texted friends to say it wasn’t any worse than a bad hang­over. I thought I’d got off lightly, then sud­denly the virus took a hold. I turned my phone off, which pan­icked all my friends.

“My or­gans started to fail and I was drift­ing in and out of con­scious­ness. At one point I told the doc­tors I’d had enough. I’d watched peo­ple die from the dis­ease and knew what was com­ing.”

Af­ter nine days fight­ing for her life, Pauline, who was treated with an ex­per­i­men­tal anti-virus drug, ZMabb and blood plasma from sur­vivors, started to rally.

She said: “I re­mem­ber feel­ing grad­u­ally bet­ter. I was stunned to still be alive.

“I turned on my phone, texted my friends and started to live again. I got to leave my iso­la­tion tent. At first I felt very ex­posed but the feel­ing soon wore off and, fun­nily enough, I haven’t had any de­sire to go camp­ing.

“I owe my life to Dr Ja­cobs and his amaz­ing in­fec­tious dis­eases team. I know I wouldn’t be here with­out their round-the-clock care. I went back to see them in May.

“Just be­ing in the hos­pi­tal made me feel sick and re­minded me how close I came to dy­ing.”

“I have given my­self a year to get bet­ter and I’m get­ting there. I’ve had trou­ble with my thy­roid, lost some of my hair and get re­ally sore joints but I guess side-ef­fects are to be ex­pected.

“It was only in May that I truly started to feel psy­cho­log­i­cally and phys­i­cally bet­ter. I am now drug-free and only need oc­ca­sional check-ups.

“I don’t like the lime­light and be­ing in the media all over the world has been re­ally chal­leng­ing. In truth, it has been the hard­est thing to deal with.”

Pauline, who turns 40 this year, is busy do­ing the things she loves best – work­ing, volunteering and trav­el­ling – and says her ex­pe­ri­ences haven’t changed her out­look on life.

She said: “I don’t think hav­ing Ebola will change me.

“I’ve heard peo­ple say you should live your life to the max and that kind of thing, but I was do­ing a good job of liv­ing my life be­fore I got ill.

“My out­look hasn’t changed.”

Sur­vivor Cam­bus­lang nurse, Pauline Caf­fer­key Pa­tient Be­low, Pauline needed a po­lice es­cort to get to hos­pi­tal in Lon­don last De­cem­ber

Front page How Pauline’s the Re­former re­ported

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