Meet The Medics Who Gave Up Christmas To Battle Ebola In Sierra Leone
While most of us were opening gifts and tucking into turkey, a team of NHS and Army medics had a very different Christmas thousands of miles away.
This selfless group spent the festive period in Sierra Leone, where Ebola has already claimed the lives of 3,000 people.
For the past month, these men and women – funded by the Department of International Development – have put their own lives on the line to help treat victims of the killer disease
One NHS worker, paramedic Ged Kelly, 41, left wife Rachel at home in the West Midlands to join staff at the new treatment centre in Port Loko.
Rowan GriffithsBrave: Paramedic Ged Kelly who is working at the new Ebola treatment centre in Port Loko, Sierra Leone
He said: “My family have been really supportive and backed me and while I like Christmas, it’s just a few days.
“Christmas day was spent working till 2pm, a busy but very rewarding day as I was able to discharge a patient during the shift as he was free of his Ebola and able to go home.
"The staff sang and danced as he came out of the centre. It was an amazing experience that I’ll remember forever.”
Children’s nurse Julie Flaherty, 59, who has worked for the NHS for 42 years, is usually based at Salford Royal Hospital.
Describing her Christmas Day, the mum-of-seven, of Huddersfield, said: “I had time to phone home and spoke to hubby although both of us were a bit tearful.
“Then I phoned dad, 84 years and was even more tearful.
Rowan GriffithsMum-of-seve: Nurse, Julie Flaherty, who is currently working at the new Ebola treatment centre in Port Loko, Sierra Leone
“I went to work at 1pm and learnt one patient Mariatu, 48, had sadly just died but Gibril, an employee at the camp who caught Ebola had survived – our first.”
Consultant psychiatrist Martin Deahl, 58, based in Newport, Shropshire, is also a Colonel in the Army Reserve.
The dad-of-two said he was missing nine-year-old daughter Cecily’s birthday but described this Christmas as “the most extraordinary of his life”.
He explained: “For our first week patients were bed-bound, distressed, unable to help themselves.
Rowan GriffithsMissing birthday: Psychiatrist, Martin Deahl, who is currently working at the new Ebola treatment centre in Port Loko, Sierra Leone
"Today, six out of 12 were outside the ward in the sun, and largely self caring. We must be doing something right.”
Mohamed Koker, 54, a clinical fellow in emergency medicine at Lewisham Hospital, South London, left Sierra Leone during the civil war more than 30 years ago and has now returned to help his countrymen.
He said: “Christmas for me this year was unusual but very memorable.
Rowan GriffithsRisky: Dr Mohamed Kokor, who is currently working at the new Ebola treatment centre in Port Loko, Sierra Leone
"Our mission here has been risky but very rewarding and during our stay we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of this Ebola epidemic.”
The Sunday Mirror has teamed up with charity Street Child to raise cash to care for children orphaned by Ebola in West Africa.
So far readers have donated £50,000.
There are four ways to give to the Street Child Ebola Orphan Appeal:
● Text Ebolato 70660 to donate £5
● Set up a monthly donation by texting Streetchild £3, Streetchild £5 or Streetchild £10 to 70707
● Donate online at street-child.co.uk/donate
● Or send a cheque or postal order to: Street Child, 42-44 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AH