– In honor of World Health Day, we wanted to share the amazingly selfless story of one of our colleagues, Cecelia Rose (C.R.), who is currently on leave from her role as an implementation coach to fight Ebola. Prior to joining McKinsey, she spent seven years as a pediatric nurse in Haiti, Nicaragua, and Uganda, and served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. As the media coverage of the Ebola crisis grew last fall, C.R. could not ignore the significant needs that existed in West Africa due to the breakdown in local healthcare infrastructure: “at such a critical time, I’d be ashamed if I didn’t contribute my skills to a cause that is in dire need of what I can provide.”
C.R. approached her professional development manager and other mentors at the firm to explore taking a leave of absence from McKinsey to volunteer in Sierra Leone. The leader of her office (Denver) called her soon after to say “what an incredible opportunity – what do you need to make this work?” A few weeks later, she arrived at the Ebola treatment center and became the unit’s clinical lead.
6:45am: rise and shine. I make my bed, splash off my face, and grab a quick, light breakfast.
7:15am: depart from “tent city” – the enclosed aid worker camp the Danish government has established for us.
7:30am: arrive at the treatment unit and talk with the evening shift to review the current patients’ statuses and new admissions.
8:30am: hold a staff meeting to discuss treatment plans, patients in critical condition, and logistical arrangements for patients going home today. I also put forth the daily rotation schedule for staff treating patients. This is necessary because we are only allowed to wear the protective suits for an hour at a time.
I also use this time to present new ideas to the team. For example, a few weeks ago, we instituted a new protocol requiring incoming patients receive two (not one) IVs to help them get much needed fluids faster. Survival rates have improved since most of our patients were succumbing to dehydration before their bodies could fight off the Ebola virus.
It’s always a little bit of a challenge to clearly communicate with the unit’s international staff. If you asked me three years ago to get in front of a team of 30 experts, articulate crucial instructions, confirm they were understood and agreed upon despite language barriers, and then ensure everyone follows them...I’m not sure I could have. My time at McKinsey has taught me a ton about project management and helped me to gain confidence.
11:00am: don my protective suit. It takes 30 minutes just to assemble it. I have a colleague and a mirror to help me ensure every step is done correctly. I put on a pair of gloves and zip up my white Tyvek suit. Then, I put on a second pair of gloves, apron, face mask, face shield, and a hood that ties up top. My name is written across the front of the suit and the current time is written across my arm. Because of the extreme heat, we are only allowed to be in the suit for an hour at a time.
11:30am: treat patients. No two days are the same and each day brings new challenges and tough decisions. Today, a mother arrives exhibiting severe Ebola symptoms. She carries her nine-month-old infant. The mother needs immediate treatment but the infant doesn’t display any symptoms. I decide to separate the pair. Our team takes the baby’s temperature every 15 minutes, bathes her, changes her, and crafts a makeshift bassinet in our nurses’ area. We start the mother in aggressive treatment and she’s fighting hard. I’ll look forward to reuniting them one day.
2:00pm: I watch one of my patients – an 11-year-old boy – be discharged. He ties a cloth ribbon around the survivor tree planted just outside our unit and accepts a certificate from the head health officer, who offers encouraging words about his recovery and bravery. My team outfits him in new clothes and provides a replacement cell phone, transportation and additional information. I’m proud and relieved. (Prologue: this boy will return one week later with a hand-drawn thank you note to tell me that he wants to be a doctor when he grows up.)
6:30pm: stop by the local gas station for a cold drink and snacks.
7:00pm: return to “tent city” to have my temperature taken (a precaution we take with everyone), make dinner, and relax. Tonight I Skype with my family; sometimes I talk with friends or read.
9:00pm: sleep! If there can be a good day in an Ebola treatment unit, today was one of them.