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U.S. Doctor To Travel To Sierra Leone To Help Ebola Victims


One reason the Ebola virus is so hard to treat overseas is it's difficult to find volunteers to help patients. But some Americans are heading right into the heart of the epidemic. Doctor Nahid Bhadelia is one of them. She's an infectious disease expert at Boston Medical Center in Boston University. She and two of her colleagues are going to Sierra Leone with the World Health Organization. We talked to her just before she got on the plane. I asked her what made her decide to do it.

NAHIDA BHADELIA: This outbreak is becoming truly a complex humanitarian emergencies in the truest sense of the word. You know you have not just the elements of the disease but then add to that the elements of violence that we've seen and also the need for a military presence in some instances and such. So, all those things I think make this a historical moment and I feel compelled to help if I have the skills to do so.

MCEVERS: And I do have to ask are you afraid?

BHADELIA: You know, I have to say the thing that weighted most on my mind was actually the international travel between now and getting there. I'm eager to get started. I have had experience working with blood-borne pathogens in the past. So, whatever anxieties I may have I've been able to put those behind me.

MCEVERS: How do you do that? How do you put those fears behind you?

BHADELIA: I think you click on this mode of being the caretaker. We do it all the time as physicians, you know. And I would say it's something that a lot of us are doing since the news of my own departure was published I received so many phone calls and e-mails from other physician who've said they're either going or they want to go. And I personally know of other doctors who feel the same wa, you set the fear aside and say hey this is my job.

MCEVERS: And we've heard a lot of reports about, you know, the lack of the most basic equipment like, you know, latex gloves. Are you and your colleagues traveling with lots of protective gear? And I mean not just for yourselves but for others on the ground?

BHADELIA: Yes, actually most of my luggage is personal protective equipment that I'm taking down. It sounds like that is still an issue. And so certainly we're doing that. What's made it difficult is I had a few boxes of donations as well that I was going to ship out ahead of us but the shipping carriers many of them stopped shipping to that area.

MCEVERS: And what do you hope to learn for this?

BHADELIA: Personally I think it's one of those things - Henry Ford said, you know, man's greatest discovery is the fact that he can actually do something he was afraid he couldn't. You know, I'm paraphrasing but something along those lines. And for me that personally will be the largest achievement. I'm excited to go down there, to be able to do this. And honestly I have to tell you one of the biggest reasons is I hope that it inspires more people to go.

MCEVERS: Doctor Nahid Bhadelia thank you so, so much for this and good luck on your trip.

BHADELIA: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MCEVERS: We'll be checking in with Doctor Bhadelia from time to time here on MORNING EDITION. And she'll be blogging about helping with the Ebola outbreak on our global health blog at npr.org. It's called Goats and Soda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.