Time magazine has made its choice for Person of the Year 2014 and the accolade is not reserved for a single person, but for a group The Ebola Fighters, according to a Dec. 10 online article. This group includes nurses, physicians and others who were involved in caring or advocating for Ebola patients in the U.S. or West Africa some of whom ended up contracting the disease and waging their own personal battle to survive.
Times choice as Person of the Year 2014 was explained by its editor Nancy Gibbs in a separate editorial. First responders were accused of crying wolf, even as the danger grew, Gibbs said in the editorial. But the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritans Purse and many others from all over the world fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams. Ask what drove them and some talk about God; some about country; some about the instinct to run into the fire, not away. … For tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are Times Person of the Year 2014.
Nurses featured in the article include Kaci Hickox, BSN, MPH, RN, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, who was quarantined in a tent at a New Jersey hospital after returning from caring for patients in Sierra Leone. Hickox later was quarantined at her home in Maine. A Maine judge later overturned the quarantine. I have witnessed the devastation Ebola causes and have personally experienced the stigma that fear of this disease brings, Hickox said in the Time article. Still, I hope that compassion and knowledge will soon overcome the fear so that we can beat Ebola. I do want to go back to West Africa, but for now, Im taking things day by day.
Another nurse featured in the article is Iris Martor, a nurse at the More Than Me Academy, a school for girls in Monrovia. In the article Martor describes the fear that spread when the number of Ebola cases increased and hospitals shut down. Martor and a team that included home care nurses began going out into the community, first to educate students on Ebola and check in on them to make sure they were not ill with Ebola, malaria or any other condition. Soon their outreach efforts included everyone in the community.
Home care is dangerous because you dont know the environment, Martor said in the article, so team members were careful to avoid direct contact with people they visited. As a nurse, when you are graduating, you swear an oath to take care of life. Initially I was afraid. I should admit that. I dont want to die. I have my family, I have my children. But if I dont help, I will still not be free.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital (Dallas) nurses Nina Pham, RN, and Amber Vinson, RN, also were featured on the Person of the Year list. The nurses contracted Ebola after caring for patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the disease. Pham, who said she would not have turned down the assignment to care for Duncan, said she does not know how she contracted Ebola having adhered to the CDC and hospital-recommended guidelines for personal protective equipment, but she has her suspicions. I replay it over and over again in my head how I could have gotten infected, she said in the Time article. If I had to guess when it happened, it probably would have been in the first couple of days, when Mr. Duncan wasnt in control of his bodily fluids, and he didnt have catheters and tubes in place. We had to go in there and do blood sticks and deal with intimate procedures that were very high risk. … But now, I hope we as Americans know its still such a big issue in West Africa, and I think its important as a global community to help each other out. Its not about closing off our borders or leaving people to fend for themselves.
Vinson shared similar sentiments about caring for Duncan. I was assigned to the medical ICU and was selected as part of the team, she said in the article. There was no question in my mind whether or not I would take care of the patient. There was a patient in my unit on my floor. It was my responsibility to take care of him.
Vinson describes the media coverage of the Ebola outbreak, her diagnosis and the coverage of her return to Texas from Ohio, where she had flown to plan her wedding, as emotionally and mentally taxing and disappointing in the article, but said, I still want to do my part to help. I feel like a lot of people think Ebola is gone because no one in the States has it, but the crisis is not over.
The Ebola Fighters featured in the Time article also include physicians, such as Kent Brantly, MD, Samaritans Purse.
To read the nurse-specific stories in Times Person of the Year 2014 article, go to http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-ebola-nurses
To read the full Time article, which features other honorees, go to http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-ebola-fighters