ON THE windowsill in the top -floor corridor of Pauline Cafferkey’s home there sits three red flowers in three simple vases, and an empty glass dresser on a narrow green carpet.
Six days ago she would have walked along the corridor in the company of paramedics, and down the two flights of stairs to where an ambulance with police escort waited.
Her attic apartment is part of a new-build block of pebble dash and honey coloured stone in the area of ‘Half Way’ in Cambuslang. Yesterday, there was a sombre mood among its residents who are hoping and praying for their neighbour’s recovery and return.
The daughter of neighbour Jim McLinden saw “the heavy squad” – how he describes the police cars and ambulance that were parked in the small communal car park to take Pauline away on Monday after she fell ill hours after returning to Scotland from weeks of helping Ebola patients in west Africa.
His daughter told him how surprised she was to see them there and then the reason for their appearance was soon breaking news on all television stations, around the word.
Last night Mr McLinden, 67, who recently retired after 25 years working at Glasgow Airport, from where his neighbour was evacuated inside a sealed oxygen tent and onto an RAF Hercules aircraft, said: “We just hope to God she gets better. What else can you say? I didn’t know her well, my wife would chat to her on the stairs and you knew she was a nurse by the way she dressed, but it’s terrible what has happened.”
Like a number of residents Mr McLinden was initially concerned and would have preferred more information from the health authorities. Like others, and many across the country, he thinks stricter checks and extended quarantine is essential, but he has no fear for his health or that of his family, only for his stricken neighbour. “We’re told the risk is negligible. We’re not worried, and we all just hope she manages to pull through.”
It is a sentiment shared one floor down by Stuart McDowell, 55, another neighbour who said: “I just wish her well. I just saw on Sky News that her condition has deteriorated and that it doesn’t look too good, I just really hope she pulls through.”
However Ian Thomson, 68, who moved into the apartment complex just five weeks ago is honest enough to say that had he known his upstairs neighbour had recently travelled to Sierra Leone to work with Save The Children tending to stricken Ebola patients: “I wouldn’t be too happy”. Yet last night he said: “I’m so sorry to hear she is not doing too good, but it is one of those terrible things.”
The apartment block is just an eight-minute drive to the Blantyre Health Centre where Pauline Cafferkey worked as a nurse and last night as the sky began to darken, a number of local residents said their thoughts and prayers were now with what one woman described as “a local hero”.
Thomas, 39, who did not wish to give his second name, said that he had been upset to see her condition had deteriorated: “I was proud of someone from here going over to Africa to help others, she was brave, really brave to go and she was putting the needs of others before herself and she knew the risks, big risks and if that’s not courage then I don’t know what is.” He added he had also been angered by the tweets made by Katie Hopkins who described the stricken nurse as an “Ebola bomb”: “I hope she feels proud of herself now. What has she ever done for anyone else?”
As the light began to fade Angela McLean, 39, walked by pushing six-month-old Mark, in his pram while Mark Nisbet, 37, held the hand of Chloe, just three. The couple both felt that what Cafferkey had undertaken was an act of considerable bravery. “It’s just so unfortunate that it has happened. She showed real courage to go out there and its just terrible this happened.” While Mark Nisbet said: “I think she’s heroic to volunteer.”
One former nurse, who did not wish to be named, but who had herself worked in an ICU ward treating people with infectious diseases such as TB, said it was tragic if the nurse had been infected, as had been reported, at a church service by someone who gave her a hug. “How do you turn down a hug? An act of love and yet look what may have come from it?”
At Crossgates, near Cowdenbeath, where her parents Jean and Michael Cafferkey live, there was also the sense of a community hoping that one of their own pulls through.
Kara Westwood, 20 said: “I work at the local shop and people have been talking about it all week, it has affected lots of people. When you see it on the news you think ‘this doesn’t really worry me,’ but when it’s someone so close it makes Ebola seem so real.
“It’s very sad and people have been coming into the shop with it on their minds. It’s very sad for her family.” A dog walker who did not wish to be named, said: “I didn’t know the girl, but I’ve friends who know the family. She’s very young and was extremely brave to try to help other people knowing the risks. It’s tragic and scary but her family should be proud of her. Anyone you ask around here would say they are proud of her.”
And Emad Bendarbaf, 43, who manages a fast food shop in Crossgates, said: “People are worried and wanting to know how she is and are feeling sad. For Pauline, and her family.”
Last night in Cambuslang, the hall light on the Scottish nurse’s floor was still on, the flowers still visible against an inky wash of darkness, and on the floors below the residents still nurse a fragile hope their neighbour will return.