Courage turned the tide of Ebola

DRIVEN BY HOPE: Former Sunshine Coast nurse and Red Cross Australia volunteer Anne Carey is back in Queensland after three stints in Sierra Leone working with Ebola victims.
DRIVEN BY HOPE: Former Sunshine Coast nurse and Red Cross Australia volunteer Anne Carey is back in Queensland after three stints in Sierra Leone working with Ebola victims. Michael Duffaustralian Red Cross

FORMER Coast resident Anne Carey could have sat back after having done her first stint on the Ebola front-line in Sierra Leone.

Instead, she went back twice more.

The Western Australia-based nurse said she was never scared.

"When I first went I maybe felt particularly anxious, but I think courage helps you in there," Ms Carey said.

"Courage doesn't mean you aren't afraid. It means that you might be able to get to the other side of it."

More than 500 health workers are among the 11,300 people who have perished during the Ebola outbreak to date.

Ms Carey said she had confidence she would not be infected if she followed procedures.

The most dangerous part of her job was removing the layers of protective clothing health workers were forced to wear to avoid coming into contact with the virus.

Ms Carey, a nurse of 25 years and qualified midwife, decided to join the Red Cross efforts against Ebola because she felt it was part of her responsibility as a human being.

"I just think that we all belong on this one planet and it's really good to jump in and help ... I just felt it was the right thing to do," she said.

"I had two days' training in Geneva with the Red Cross and when I got there the need was so great and I just felt so safe."

Ms Carey had little time to dwell on the situation in which she had placed herself. On her first day, a two-week-old baby bled to death in her arms. He was the seventh child that his mother had lost to Ebola.

The mother survived, even though she had no reason left to live.

"It really made you think, 'Oh my God, this disease has taken everything from her'," Ms Carey said

"That gave you a sense that it wasn't about you, that it was about a country and all the people suffering in it."

Ms Carey was confronted by death every day for weeks. She simply kept her mind on doing what she could to help.

"All I knew while I was over there was that we had heaps of hope that we were going to beat it because if we didn't have that, I would never have gone over there," she said.

Confirmed cases are now down to just a couple a week.

Ms Carey said locals appreciated the courage shown by health workers who had come to help them, and in turn trusted them and worked with them, which helped turn the tide on infections.

"In the end that courage became more contagious than Ebola and I think in the end that helped us win everything," she said.

After returning to Australia, Ms Carey took a contract position in Atherton, in north Queensland. Upon completion of the contract, she will return to Western Australia, where her partner, a doctor, is based.

She has been visiting her mother on the Sunshine Coast when she can.

Ms Carey is also trying to fundraise to buy 500 computers to help local staff back in Sierra Leone. So far, she has raised $14,000.

She is available to speak about her experiences to interested groups. Email

Topics:  ebola editors picks sierra leone

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