A nurse who survived after contracting the killer Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has returned from an “emotional” fund-raising trip to the country.
Pauline Cafferkey met Ebola orphans and survivors as she completed a 10k run with British charity Street Child to help raise funds.
Ms Cafferkey contracted Ebola in 2014 while volunteering during the epidemic and has suffered a series of further health scares due to complications linked to the disease, at one stage falling critically ill.
During the trip last month – her first visit to Sierra Leone since she fell ill – she met survivors like Mbalu, who she nursed at Kerry Town Ebola treatment centre.
The 17-year-old, who has not been to school since her father died of Ebola two years ago, remembers being nursed by Ms Cafferkey and could not stop hugging her when they met.
Ms Cafferkey said: “From a personal perspective, it was important for me to return and close that chapter of my life.
“Most importantly, the trip helped emphasise that so much needs to be done for those living in the aftermath.
“What was most emotional for me was meeting Ebola survivors and orphans, and seeing how hard life still is for many of them.
“We were able to meet some very resilient young girls who had been orphaned as a result of Ebola – because Street Child were able to support them they would be considered the ‘lucky’ ones.”
The Scottish nurse travelled to Freetown to volunteer at an Ebola treatment centre with Save The Children in 2014.
She returned to Glasgow via Heathrow in December that year but was quickly struck down with the illness herself.
There were fears for her life but her condition was said to have stabilised by January and she was discharged from hospital later that month, with doctors saying she had completely recovered.
However, she was readmitted to hospital on three occasions – in October 2015 and February and October 2016.
In spite of suffering joint pain as a result of Ebola, Ms Cafferkey completed the 10k run as part of Street Child’s annual Sierra Leone marathon.
The nurse took on the running challenge on her self-funded trip together with two friends who volunteered with her at the Kerry Town treatment centre during the Ebola epidemic.
Ms Cafferkey faced disciplinary proceedings over events surrounding her return to the UK for which she was later cleared.