A volunteer nurse being treated for Ebola in London spoke of his joy in seeing his patients recover shortly before falling ill himself.
William Pooley, Britain’s first confirmed Ebola case, was interviewed by The Guardian just days before he contracted the virus, while working in the West African country of 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.”
“He read about our nurses who were unfortunately dying there and took it on himself to come over and volunteer”
The 29-year-old was flown back to the UK for emergency treatment in an isolation unit at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust in Hampstead.
In a statement released via the trust’s website, his family paid tribute to those who orchestrated his speedy return to the UK and urged Britons to consider the thousands in West Africa dying from the virus because they lacked adequate medical care.
They said: “We would like to express our thanks to all involved in bringing our son back to the UK.
“Will is receiving excellent care at the Royal Free Hospital and we could not ask for him to be in a better place,” they said.
“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,” they added.
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 a “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,” he said. “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 23 August.
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.”
“The dedication of frontline healthcare workers like William is essential for containing the spread of this virus”
Peter Carter, chief Executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, paid tribute to Mr Pooley’s bravery.
He said: “William Pooley demonstrated incredible bravery and commitment in volunteering to provide nursing care in Sierra Leone for those with Ebola, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
“The dedication of frontline healthcare workers like William is essential for containing the spread of this virus. The risks they face are considerable but they are doing the best they can for their patients,” he added.
Ebola is highly infectious, but health chiefs have insisted the risk to the British public “remains very low”.