The Centers for Disease Control announced on Wednesday it is offering training courses in the United States for healthcare workers looking to fight the Ebola virus at treatment centers in West Africa.
The “Preparing Healthcare Workers to Work in Ebola Treatment Units in Africa” training is held at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala.
Students work in a mock Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU), and practice putting on and taking off personal protective equipment. The training also includes practicing blood drawing, triaging patients and cleaning up bodily fluid spills safely.
Kwan Kew Lai served as a doctor with the International Medical Corps in an ETU in Liberia in mid-October. She went through the three-day training with the CDC along with 35 other healthcare workers before heading to West Africa.
An avid runner, Lai described working in the blistering heat of Liberia wearing the layers of the protective gear as similar to running a marathon.
“At mile 17, I began to hit the wall, but somehow pushed myself to mile 20, at which point I invariably asked myself why I was running this marathon or any marathon at all,” Lai said. “But at the stretch to the finish line and at the end, the emotional boost to have finished running 26.2 miles was just indescribable.”
Lai's first day consisted of caring for 33 patients, including 15 confirmed cases of Ebola and 18 suspected cases. Lai said another challenge was caring for the patients and encouraging them through the process.
“What makes it even more poignant is that when the patients need close human contact the most, in times of extreme suffering, pain and fear, there is none to offer except with a barrier of protective covering,” Lai said. “In the beginning, it hit home to me that there was a real possibility of a true exposure; however, as time went on, inspired by the persistence, dedication and selfless caring of my colleagues, that fear was pushed to the back of my mind and the goal of getting the patients better overwhelmingly became my main concern.”