A passion for helping virus victims
An ICS graduate who worked in Liberia this summer, treating victims of the Ebola virus, has said she is longing to go back.

An ICS alumna who worked in Liberia this summer treating victims of the Ebola virus has said she is longing to go back.

"The situation in Liberia is disastrous," said ICS graduate Dr Nathalie MacDermott. "They desperately need healthcare staff there. Liberia doesn't have enough doctors at the best of times and now some of them have died of Ebola and others have left Liberia because they are afraid of catching the disease themselves. I can't sit back and do nothing when I know that I might be able to help."

Nathalie studied medicine after graduating from ICS in 1999 and now works in paediatrics at a hospital in Wales. She took unpaid leave to go Liberia in July and work in a hospital in the capital, Monrovia.

Nathalie - seen rear centre of this picture at her ICS graduation - had known for a long time that she was interested in medicine and that she particularly wanted to work with children. While at ICS she worked with vulnerable children in Zurich for her CAS service project. 

Since qualifying as a doctor Nathalie, a practising Christian, has volunteered three times to work in medical disaster response with the charity Samaritan's Purse including in Haiti and the Philippines.  

Going to Liberia was daunting for her, because of the inevitable risks. But, she says, "I appreciate that the risk is there - and I don't let it get in the way of doing what I'm passionate about. I recognise that there is risk to my personal safety, but I am so passionate about what I want to do, it wouldn't inhibit me going."  In this, she embodies the ICS mission of pursuing your passion and fulfilling your responsibilities.

She says that she found the situation in Liberia shocking. "Being in Liberia was like sitting on a time bomb and waiting for it to explode," she says. "For the first few days I was there, we were seeing one to two new cases a day. But then they rapidly began increasing and we started getting cases from areas of Liberia that had not previously had any cases of Ebola.

"Things started spiralling out of control. One day we had a patient transferred to us from another county where there had not been many cases. Then I had a phone call to say six of his family members had also tested positive for Ebola and we needed to take them in - but we had no beds left. 

"We were trying to open a bigger facility while I was there, a tent hospital where we could treat more patients. But there is so much fear and paranoia about Ebola that the locals didn't want a treatment facility in their neighbourhood. There were riots, some of them violent, right outside our compound."

Nathalie - pictured right with colleagues in protective clothing - feels strongly that the international community should have acted earlier to help. 

Two of her colleagues, Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, contracted Ebola while she was in Liberia. It hit the headlines around the world when they were taken back to the US for treatment. [They subsequently recovered and both have now been discharged from hospital.]

 "It was frightening when that happened," she says. "But on the other hand, that was one of the things that really brought the Liberian Ebola crisis to the attention of the international community. We now have an international commitment to offer more help. I hope very much to see that commitment fulfilled, on the ground."

  • The full interview with Dr Nathalie MacDermott is in this autumn's issue of ICS World, our alumni magazine. 

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