West Kootenay Advertiser
With files from Liz Bevan
There wasn’t much fanfare when Patrice Gordon boarded a plane for Africa last month – but there sure was a national hullabaloo when she returned home.
That’s because for four weeks, the Rossland native had worked the front lines of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.
Upon her return to Canada, the nurse practitioner developed flu-like symptoms, with fever and achy muscles, while she was staying in Kelowna over the holidays.
Gordon’s subsequent admission to the Kelowna General Hospital sparked a media frenzy across the country, forever linking her name to the contagious disease.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was shielded by a lot of it by a media person for the Red Cross. She was fabulous, and told me I didn’t have to talk to anyone, but I wanted to talk to people.”
The story has since quietened and has a happy ending, because after being tested for Ebola three times over 21 days, all tests were negative and she is back in the comfort of her Chilcotin home.
And even though she is a long way from Sierra Leone, her mind remains with those at the treatment centre.
“I am all the way over here in Canada, but I feel so close to those people and feel their pain,” she told Trail Times reporter Liz Bevan, on Jan. 19.
The message she wants to get to the media is how relatable the victims of Ebola are to Canadians at home.
“I wanted to be able to put some faces on the story instead of talking about a virus on the other side of the planet,” she said. “I want people to understand that these are happy little children being stricken. There is the 22-year-old university student or the 18-year old who is working with his father fixing shoes – they are dying.”
Just before speaking with Bevan, Gordon had received news that the disease had also killed one of the health care providers she had worked with in Kenema district of Sierra Leone.
“He was the first Red Cross person that has been affected since the mission started in April 2014,” she explained. “I am just stunned. It is like one big family there. I am just waiting to hear more and send my deep sadness and love over to them. He committed the last four months of his life to working six days a week looking after his fellow countrymen and now he has died.”
There is still suffering going on in the Ebola-stricken country, but for Gordon, it is time to heal herself after the emotional roller coast of the last few months.
“I know that I haven’t processed it year,” she said. “But, I came home to my partner and two furry, warm puppies that are happy to see me and that has been the greatest therapy a person can have.”
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, about 22,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been infected with Ebola, leading to more than 8,600 deaths.