I am a nurse who has just returned to the U.S. after working with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone - an Ebola-affected country. I have been quarantined in New Jersey. This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me.
I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa. I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear and, most frightening, quarantine.
I arrived at the Newark Liberty International Airport around 1 p.m. on Friday, after a grueling two-day journey from Sierra Leone. I walked up to the immigration official at the airport and was greeted with a big smile and a “hello.”
I told him that I have traveled from Sierra Leone and he replied, a little less enthusiastically: “No problem. They are probably going to ask you a few questions.”
He put on gloves and a mask and called someone. Then he escorted me to the quarantine office a few yards away. I was told to sit down. Everyone that came out of the offices was hurrying from room to room in white protective coveralls, gloves, masks, and a disposable face shield.
One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn’t. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.
Two other officials asked about my work in Sierra Leone. One of them was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They scribbled notes in the margins of their form, a form that appeared to be inadequate for the many details they are collecting.
I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.
Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me.
I called my family to let them know that I was OK. I was hungry and thirsty and asked for something to eat and drink. I was given a granola bar and some water. I wondered what I had done wrong.
Four hours after I landed at the airport, an official approached me with a forehead scanner. My cheeks were flushed, I was upset at being held with no explanation. The scanner recorded my temperature as 101.
The female officer looked smug. “You have a fever now,” she said.
I explained that an oral thermometer would be more accurate and that the forehead scanner was recording an elevated temperature because I was flushed and upset.
I was left alone in the room for another three hours. At around 7 p.m., I was told that I must go to a local hospital. I asked for the name and address of the facility. I realized that information was only shared with me if I asked.
Eight police cars escorted me to the University Hospital in Newark. Sirens blared, lights flashed. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong.
I had spent a month watching children die, alone. I had witnessed human tragedy unfold before my eyes. I had tried to help when much of the world has looked on and done nothing.
At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. “Your temperature is 98.6,” they said. “You don't have a fever but we were told you had a fever.”
After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.”
My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.
I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?
Awwwwwwww, does Pwecious Special Snowflake need a hanky to cry in?
Let's try this again, after we turn up the "Brigthtness" dial:
I am a nurse who has just returned to the U.S. after working with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone - an Ebola-affected country. I have been exposed to Ebola in the past 48 hours, and out of a rational fear that, just like my colleague, Dr. Spencer, I might also display symptoms of this deadly disease, and expose friends, family, and hundreds of strangers to this deadly disease, I have been quarantined in New Jersey. As a grown up, I think this was an entirely rational response, to prevent exposing or infecting my fellow airline passengers and the cabin crews on multiple flights, plus various officials, clerks, taxi drivers, bus passengers, hotel clerk, waiters and waitresses, cashiers, plus their families, children, and by extension the rest of Newark, and the state of New Jersey. This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, but I realize it's not all about MeMeMe, and my feelings don't trump the safety of countless others. I'm sure my fellow health care professionals will also understand the need for this common sense response, and deal with it as a minor inconvenience compared to what would happen if I had been infected, let alone if I were to spread the disease to innocent strangers through negligence and reckless disregard for normal infection control processes, of the exact sort used for centuries.
I had to wait in complete isolation, and it's scary and lonely, but now I begin to have some tiny bit of empathy for how all the people I treated must have felt when I was on the other side of the hazmat gear. I didn't realize what a sight I must have presented every day to strangers in a faraway land dying from a deadly disease, but now, I have some tiny inkling of what they faced, and it will give me more empathy for my patients for the rest of my nursing career. Until now, I was pretty oblivious about what that feels like.Now though, I understand how important it is to introduce myself when I'm all covered up and anonymous. I also understand how it feels to be scared, hungry, and thirsty, and completely at the mercy of other people - exactly like my patients are. I get why my tone of voice, and some compassion, can make someone in a strange situation feel afraid, vulnerable, and helpless, in a way I never confronted personally before.
And I see how one person's thoughtless actions can have consequences for hundreds to thousands of others when a deadly disease is the culprit, and the health and safety of thousands to millions of people is at stake, and it makes me feel very humble under such a weighty responsibility. I was thankful for being given food and water, and even for being isolated so that I wouldn't infect or expose any of those other people, all strangers, with whom I would have otherwise been sitting as I continued my journey home. The officials were so concerned about my health and the public's safety they dedicated an ambulance and eight police cars to getting me safely to a definitive medical screening. I'm sure those cops must have had better things to do in Newark than babysit me, but I never heard a peep of complaint from them; the ride was all business, fast, and I was completely safely conveyed to the hospital. It was quickly determined that I was not symptomatic, which was a huge relief.
Now I only have to spend three additional weeks waiting it out before everyone I meet can be assured I'm no threat to the public's health. Or to my own family and friends, who mean the world to me. I didn't expect this additional hurdle when I left the US to help out overseas, but I'm a professional with extensive training and experience in controlling the disease in question, and it's so horrible I'd rather die myself than spread it to one other person. So the last thing I'm going to do is bitch, piss, and moan about my tiny little problems, instead of dealing with this additional hurdle, and then getting back to the people and work that I love. I am not the most important thing in the universe, and in case I forgot, I just got a huge wake-up call. So if this is the worst thing that happens to me after spending weeks working amongst the dying in third world squalor, I've got nothing to worry about. And I can't wait to get out of here and enjoy a feast with my friends and family. Compared to what I've seen, they really have no idea how blessed they are to be here, instead of over there. But I sure do, now.You tell me: which one of those statements sounds like a dedicated professional, and which one sounds like a whiny four-year-old?
Get over yourself, Princess!
You have a Planetary Rotation Malfunction: the world does NOT, in fact, revolve around you. Got that?
So either change your attitude, or change your profession. You embarrass me, and you're seriously pissing me off!
It sounds like a three week time out for you is just what the doctor ordered.
Now get away from me until you can act like goddam grown-up. Go!