The Scottish nurse who nearly died from Ebola after travelling to Sierra Leone has told how she feared she might “die a horrible death” after contracting the virus.
Pauline Cafferkey, 40, from Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, has told of the horror of being diagnosed with Ebola twice and her fight for survival and her hopes for the future.
She contracted the virus in December 2014 while working as a volunteer nurse in Sierra Leone at a Save the Children treatment centre.
“I was obviously very shocked. I just knew I had to stay strong and I just had to try and keep it together,” she said.
“I was just thinking I could die a horrible death within the next few days.”
She said she didn’t want her family to see her so ill: “I said ‘do not let anybody in here, I do not want anybody to see me’, which is quite selfish really, but I didn’t want them to see me like that.”
After five weeks in West Africa, Pauline came back to the UK in late December.
She was screened seven times in total for the symptoms of Ebola and allowed to return home, but after developing a high temperature she contacted the Infectious Diseases Unit at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital.
She was flown to the Royal Free Hospital in London and put in their High Level Isolation Unit, where she was told she was in a critical condition, leading her to fear that death was imminent.
“I was in a lot of pain and then my body became swollen. I think probably my organs were starting to fail”.
However after almost a month, she beat the virus, only for it to resurface last year, triggering meningitis.
“I have been negative of Ebola for seven months now and don’t believe I will have another relapse,” she said.
“Looking to the future I’m not sure what it will hold. I’m positive it will be full of good things as it can’t get any worse than what I have gone through and I’m sure the memories will fade with time.”