Leeds nurse tells of Ebola scare in harrowing book on outbreak

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A LEEDS nurse who helped saved lives during the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa has co-written a harrowing inside story of one of the modern world’s most deadly disease outbreaks.

In ‘Ebola: Behind The Mask’, Andy Dennis also recounts his experience of falling ill after developing suspected Ebola symptoms and being rushed to St James’s Hospital in an ambulance escorted by police.

Mr Dennis, who has previously worked as an A&E nurse at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital, volunteers with humanitarian charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

He wrote the book with Dutch colleague Anna Simon. In late 2014 the pair were working with MSF for a month on the frontline of the fight against Ebola in the east of Sierra Leone.

It was a harrowing experience, with 47 Ebola deaths in the hospital the pair were working that month, but they also helped save many more lives.

He arrived home just before Christmas 2014 and on December 30 he started to feel unwell with a high temperature, joint pains, headache – symptoms consistent with the early stages of Ebola.

The UK was on high alert at the time for possible Ebola cases and the Infectious Diseases Unit at St James’s was the designated regional centre to receive and isolate possible cases.

The book recounts how in line with an agreed protocol two ambulances with specially trained and protected staff, backed up by two police cars, were sent to help transport Andy quickly from his home in Harrogate to St James’s.

He was met by a consultant a nurse in full protective equipment who were there to monitor him and conduct a series of tests to determine whether he had Ebola or any other infectious disease.

In line with precautions put in place by Public Health England, samples were taken by special courier to the UK research centre at Porton Down, and there was an anxious wait for Andy and all the staff at St James’s until the result came back that he had tested negative and was able to go home.

Mr Dennis said: “The contrast in this whole experience couldn’t have been greater. In Sierra Leone patients had to travel for hours to get to the hospital and sometimes the living and the dead would be there together when we opened the door of the ambulance.

“In Leeds I encountered this incredibly well planned and ultra careful response and although it was a frightening experience for me and my family I knew I was in the best possible hands.”

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