Suffolk: Ebola sufferer William Pooley proud to have helped victims

William Pooley from Eyke, near Woodbridge, who has contracted Ebola William Pooley from Eyke, near Woodbridge, who has contracted Ebola

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
10:12 AM

A volunteer nurse being treated for Ebola spoke of his pride in helping victims shortly before falling ill.

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William Pooley, Britain’s first confirmed Ebola sufferer, was interviewed by a national newspaper just days before he contracted the virus while working in Sierra Leone.

In a short video clip, he described the joy of seeing victims recovered.

He said: “It’s great seeing them walking away after some of them have been in a terrible state and me seeing them on the ward.

“But then to see them recover and walk out the door, it’s great.”

The 29-year-old was flown back to the UK for emergency treatment in an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in north London.

His family have paid tribute to those who orchestrated his speedy return.

They also urged Britons to consider the thousands in West Africa afflicted by the virus, but dying in their droves because they lack adequate medical care.

They said: “We would like to express our thanks to all involved in bringing our son back to the UK.

“We have been astounded by the speed and way which the various international and UK government agencies have worked together to get Will home.

“Will is receiving excellent care at the Royal Free Hospital and we could not ask for him to be in a better place.

“We would like to thank all our family and friends for their best wishes and ask everyone to remember those in other parts of the world suffering with Ebola who do not have access to the same healthcare facilities as Will.”

Mr Pooley, who comes from the small village of Eyke in Suffolk, contracted the potentially deadly virus while in Sierra Leone, where he had been volunteering at the Ebola centre in Kenema.

He was airlifted back to Britain by a specially equipped C17 RAF jet, and continues to be treated in a specialist isolation ward at the hospital in Hampstead.

Doctors clad in protective plastic clothing and wearing gloves and masks are caring for him in the strictly monitored ward.

There is no known cure for Ebola, which is transmitted through sweat, blood and saliva. The World Health Organisation says that more than 2,500 people have been killed by the latest outbreak in West Africa, where the fatality rate stands at 90% if it goes untreated.

The round-the-clock care Mr Pooley is receiving will radically improve his chances, but experts said his treatment could take weeks, if not longer, and there is no guarantee he will survive.

It is not yet known if he will be given the experimental drug ZMapp - dubbed by some as the “cure” after two aid US workers were successfully treated for Ebola after taking it. But manufacturers of the drug have said their stocks have been exhausted because of the high demand.

Mr Pooley, who has been praised by colleagues as “particularly brave”, had originally travelled to the country to volunteer at a hospice in the capital, Freetown, treating HIV and cancer patients.

But he risked his life to move to the Kenema Government Hospital when he heard about the pressing need for medics after other healthcare workers died from Ebola.

Oliver Johnson, a friend of Mr Pooley’s who worked with him in Sierra Leone, said he was an “extraordinary guy” who knew the risks involved but was prepared to take them for the sake of the patients.

Dr Johnson, programme director of King’s College London’s Sierra Leone partnership, said: “He and I spoke about the risk together and I think he absolutely understood that there were risks involved.

“He also knew, though, that he was well-trained and there were good precautions in place, so it was a measured risk. But where he was in Kenema a number of staff had become sick.”

Dr Robert Garry, an American colleague at the hospital, said Mr Pooley received his test results in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Paying tribute to his sick workmate, he said: “It’s a very honourable thing. He saw the need. He read about our nurses who were unfortunately dying there and took it on himself to come over and volunteer and learned how to be as safe as he could.

“But when you work hard like that, when you put in so many hours, you’re going to make a mistake and unfortunately that seems to have happened in this case.”

Ebola is highly infectious, but health chiefs have insisted the risk to the British public “remains very low”.

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