Pauline Cafferkey, the UK nurse who contracted ebola fever, has said she plans to return to Sierra Leone next month to help raise funds for children orphaned by the disease and other survivors.
She will be going back to the West African where she originally contracted the virulent disease for the first time since she worked there as a volunteer during the ebola epidemic in 2014.
“It’ll be a little bit of closure, and I want to end it with something good”
Talking on the BBC this week, Ms Cafferkey said the trip would give her “closure in a positive way”.
She fell ill after arriving back in the UK in December 2014. Despite recovering after specialist treatment at the Royal Free Hospital, she experienced a relapse and also developed meningitis.
She spent almost a month in isolation at the Royal Free. But in October 2015 it was found that ebola was still present in her body and she was alter diagnosed with meningitis caused by the virus.
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Ms Cafferkey subsequently developed problems with her thyroid, hair loss, headaches and joint pains. At various stages she has also spent time in a wheelchair, later using crutches and sticks to walk.
She told the BBC that she once carried a thermometer around with her due to “paranoia” over getting a fever again.
She is returning to Sierra Leone to raise funds for UK charity Street Child, which provides shelter and education for street children and orphans. It estimates that 12,000 children were orphaned in the country by ebola.
Military nurse with ebola flown home to UK for treatment
Source: Steve Ford
Ms Cafferkey told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme it would be “psychologically important for me to go back”.
“That’s where things started for me and I’ve had a terrible couple of years since then, so it’d be good to go back and have things come full circle for me,” she said. “It’ll be a little bit of closure, and I want to end it with something good, something positive.”
Since recovering from ebola Ms Cafferkey has also faced misconduct charges brought by the Nursing and Midwifery Council
It was alleged that she had allowed the wrong temperature to be recorded during the screening process at Heathrow, meaning her fever was missed by public health officials.
However, the charges were dismissed after a hearing was told she had been impaired by her illness.
In contrast, another nurse who was found to have concealed Ms Cafferkey’s true temperature was suspended for two months, and a doctor was recently suspended for one month.
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Ms Cafferkey, who currently works as a health visitor support nurse in South Lanarkshire, said: “I don’t hold anything against the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
“They were purely doing their job,” she said. “It came at a bad time. It was a massive stress on me when I was already going through a difficult time.”
But she told the BBC programme that she had previously felt angry about facing the charges, and was “disappointed” with Public Health England for how it had looked after her at Heathrow.
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Ms Cafferkey added that she was “excited to go back” to Sierra Leone and see the country in a “different state” to how it was during the epidemic when travel was restricted.
Her fundraising efforts will see her attempt a 10km run as part of a marathon organised by Street Child in Makeni, one of Sierra Leone’s largest cities. She launched a fundraising page for the run today.
Ms Cafferkey will be returning to the country with two other NHS nurses who also previously volunteered with her – Sharon Irvine and Alison Fellowes.