Friday, 1 May 2015

The London Marathon - a great little finish to my time with King's Sierra Leone Partnership

My legs have just about recovered but I’m still on a complete high from running the London Marathon on the weekend. I was fully prepared with all these little psychological tips to get me through the pain and to spur me on when I ‘hit the wall’ but I didn’t need them. In between spotting my amazing entourage of friends and family around the course, thoughts of King’s Sierra Leone Partnership, Idrissa and my two team mates – Amelia and Brendan (who ran all the way in his PPE, what a legend!) up ahead, certainly kept the “fire burning”. I feel like my cheek muscles had just as much exercise as my legs from all the smiling! Various people had said that the crowds would be a huge help and that couldn’t have been more true. I felt tears prickling my eyes as I crossed Tower Bridge simply knowing that all these thousands of spectators were supporting individuals like me with similarly personal and important causes, just like mine. So a massive thank you to everyone who came to cheer and an even bigger thank you to everyone who kindly and generously donated to King’s.
At 10km when I took off the PPE. Brendan wore it ALL the way. Legend!
All smiles... Brendan, Amelia and I, together we have raised £17,279.38 (incl. Gift Aid) for KSLP. 

Sadly my time with King’s has come to an end, for now at least. I’d love to be able to move on knowing that we are safely post-Ebola but unfortunately that elusive status still seems quite a distance away. It’s amazing how out-of-the-loop I feel not living, breathing and working every moment in the office where at least someone is talking about Ebola every day. There were 6 positive cases of Ebola in Freetown last week, ending 22nd April. Despite the huge increase in numbers of epidemiologists tracing every contact of a positive case, still more than half the new cases in the week ending 15th April came from unknown transmission routes. The ongoing vigilance of all the healthcare workers and the country as a whole is so important, but has got to be fairly tiresome. Yet there are little signs of hope, as my neighbour from Freetown sent me a picture of her son in his school uniform on whatsapp, proudly going to school for the first time in 9 months. Her words ‘really sister, I am so happy for that’ emphasise the impact this deadly virus has had on all aspects of daily life.

Leaving Party for Paddy, Aatish & myself in my house
in Freetown with all the Isolation Staff from Connaught
I can’t thank the other volunteers in Freetown and the London office enough for all the support, friendship, career advice, cooking tips, media training… what an amazing few months! I have had a brief insight into knowing how intense it can be working in an environment where you can see how much there is to do but can only make progress one step at a time. I have the utmost respect for the volunteers and staff who have the dedication to stay and help, especially now so many health system strengthening projects are up and running (A&E, Mental Health & Infectious Diseases, not to mention the IPC programme!). If you know anyone who would like to join the team, King’s are currently recruiting for a number of positions including Country Director and Senior Nurse. I also feel completely humbled by the dedication of the local staff who work tirelessly day in, day out without the easy option of leaving when they feel like they’ve had enough. Their commitment to working in the unit, not getting despondent and seeing the end of Ebola is inspiring. All in all, I’ve met some incredible people that I hope to stay in touch with and visit again in the not too distant future.

Idrissa and I at my leaving party
Finally, the last word of my blog for now, is saved for Idrissa, whose words of ‘you are strong, Claire’ followed me round the roads of London on Sunday. Amelia, who also trained with him last summer, and I rang him from the post-race reception and he simply squealed down the phone with excitement. This was how he must have felt after completing the London Marathon himself last year. Thankfully, he does have something to train towards now. Tom Boyles, the South African doctor that trained me in using PPE when I first arrived in Freetown, has set up an initiative to raise funds for Idrissa to train in Kenya in preparation for running the Cape Town Marathon in September. Hurray! I will circulate the link to the fundraising website when it is launched shortly.

Thank you to you all for reading my blog. I have had some very kind words of appreciation over the last few months. I’m not going to lie, I have not found it easy to keep it up to date but I have appreciated the opportunity to reflect and share some of my experiences. I don’t know yet whether I will continue to blog from England or not yet, maybe it will be the next time I am overseas… we shall see :)

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