CAF Story | Ebola: stay alive 21 days to beat the virus

Video / August 18, 2017


I went to Sierra Leone, in the Op SIRONA. What the situation in Sierra Leone at the time was, Ebola breaks out in… they have small little outbreaks and whatnot, the Ebola viruses. Hemorrhagic fever or a virus that is spread through bodily fluids. It attacks the clotting factors of the body. They leak all their fluids interstitially, like out of their veins and main arteries. If you contract it and show symptoms, 21 days, you’re suffering until you either make it or you don’t.

My name is Michael Allan Barrett, I’m a corporal Med Tech, that works at the Montfort Hospital for the Canadian Forces Health Services Centre Ottawa. It was kind of just told to me that like: “Hey, you’re going in on this, when it gets filled up in a couple of weeks.” And I was like: “Oh, great! I can’t wait!” And… I think patient zero for that outbreak ended up being a little boy playing in a tree that had bats in it, and he ended up spreading it, and then it just kept spreading and spreading.

It’s so hot out in the day that when you breathe through your nose, it felt like you had a lighter in it. We knew it was going to be tough because you’re in Africa; it's incredibly hot at that time of year and we were going to be wearing equipment like head-to-toe. Not just like gloves and a mask, but like a Tyvek suit; big giant rubber boots, wearing two pairs of like surgical gloves and then you’ve got your mask. So if you got like a little tear on your pant leg, whatever you were doing, you stopped and you left.

There was one woman that I got to treat a few times. I think she was a nurse in another facility and contracted the virus while treating other patients. She was exhausted, I just remember her getting in a wheelchair and I was like king of pushing her, but, once she got through the whole…like, decontamination process at the very end of the facility; just started smiling and lit up and, you know, put her hands up and did her exhausted dance all she could. So it was a really big deal at the time, like a lot of what they thought Ebola was, were started to be broken down by education of the, of the people there. She said she was going to be part of it, she was going to tell her story and, she was extremely thankful and everything. It made me really respect my job and, you know, got a lot of enjoyment at that moment there.

Treating a person here is simple. We’re in a very controlled environment; we have access to a ton of tools and toys. You have almost no abilities in Africa; you do what you can with what you have. I guess what I bring home from events like that is that my career is going to be able to change and do a lot of stuff and I’m going to have a lot of fun, and doing… do something very rewarding from start to finish.

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