A nurse from Penicuik has been awarded a medal to recognise her research helping to combat the deadly ebola virus in West Africa.
Margaret Boyd, a diabetes nurse specialist, earned the ebola medal after spending a month with health teams in Sierra Leone and Liberia earlier this year.
She said: “I feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to work in West Africa. Finding a treatment for ebola is so important. I could not have completed this mission without the support and the love of my family, friends and colleagues at home and my team members in West Africa.”
In December 2014, Oxford University requested healthcare professionals to come forward to make up a team to conduct a clinical research project, using a new drug to help people who tested positive for ebola.
Margaret, who works at Roodlands Hospital in Haddington, said: “Tropical medicine was relatively new to me, but this venture would see me in the role of a research nurse, so I answered the call.”
She was in a team of six healthcare professionals who flew to Monrovia, Liberia, in January.
Margaret said: “My first thoughts were ‘What have I got myself into?’ You could tell immediately that you were in the depths of an epidemic. We were lucky to have reasonable accommodation as Liberia is an extremely poor country. I was amazed at the poverty that surrounded me. These people have nothing, but are happy.”
She and her colleagues were not allowed out of their accommodation unless accompanied by designated drivers. It was not safe to go out, especially for women, due to the high incidence of rape and the risk of catching the ebola virus.
Margaret said: “It was necessary to put on a ‘professional hat’ whilst working, as it would have been too easy to become emotionally involved with the patients, especially children, which was difficult when they did not survive. We worked closely with the Liberian nursing and medical staff, many of whom had lost colleagues and family members themselves. They were so brave. Unfortunately, as many of the African doctors and nurses died from the ebola virus, the hospitals were closed and are unable to be re-opened as there are not enough trained medical staff. This mission lasted five weeks, but every day pushed me well out of my comfort zone.”