“We educate them the best we know how:” A nurse’s effort to help stop the spread of Ebola

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Health care workers in Wisconsin have some concerns about Ebola. FOX6 News sat down with a nurse in the Milwaukee area to get her perspective.

The unique part about this woman, is that she is viewing this from two different points of view. Although working as a nurse here at a local hospital, she is also from Sierra Leone. She hasn't lived there in 23 years, but she grew up there -- it's one of the villages that is dealing directly with the Ebola virus.

Janet Kamara keeps her phone by her side, waiting for updates, calls, and texts from her family and friends in Sierra Leone.

"Sometimes it's sleepless nights. Sometimes you're on the road driving, and it's all you think about," said Kamara.

Kamara does what she can from here in Milwaukee, returning their calls and offering advice.

"We try to educate them. We educate them the best we know how, and let them know what we need to do to prevent themselves from coming in contact with somebody that has it," Kamara said.

As a nurse, this information is ingrained in her, but she says health care there is very different. That's something she was reminded of first hand, when she learned a relative in Sierra Leone, who is also a healthcare worker, contracted the disease -- and died from it.

"He was the only one in that area, that little village, so everybody comes to him when they are ill, and unfortunately somebody with Ebola, came in contact with him, he treated that person, that person went home. He didn’t know they had the Ebola virus, he got it and he died," said Kamara, "but then nobody knew that it was the Ebola virus that killed him. Because he served them for so many years, he's been good to them,  people from all over the neighboring villages came to play their last respects and in that process some of them contracted the disease, and took it to their villages," said Kamara.

Kamara says even once word spread that this was Ebola, it was a difficult message to get across. "The African community, especially West Africa where I grew up, I can speak to that because I know, people's doors are open. It’s an open door policy," Kamara explained, "so when the Ebola virus broke out there, they could not understand what a virus is. This is something that they can’t see, some of them have never even heard that word and for it to be that vicious, that brutal, was something that blew their minds, and some of them to be honest did not even believe that this was going to happen or this was happening."

As difficult as it is, news from home helps Kamara better understand the gravity of the situation, and therefore how she handles herself as nurse.

"It's given me a different perspective, because we do have people that come in the the flu virus. We have to wear protective gear. Now I am very strict when it comes to that. I try to do that, I am very conscientious this time around and leave no loopholes. Because I could get infected," Kamara said.

Kamara says as a nurse watching this all from both perspectives also gives her an even greater respect for those in her field who have been infected, or ran the risk while doing their jobs.

"I empathize with those nurses and health care works, because they are trying to do their best. They know this person is infected yet they are there, to be on their side, to provide the care they need, even if they are going to die, to die an honorable death. So I give them so much credit for that," said Kamara.

Kamara says she along with others originally from Sierra Leone have been sending financial support, as well as rice to the village where she grew up.

"We bought some rice and some other staple food and distributed it to each house, that way people can stay indoors, they don’t have to leave their houses to go fend for food and in that process contract the disease," said Kamara.

Kamara says just that small contribution helped them- she heard first hand and saw in pictures just how much. But she says its still not enough.

"We’re all connected in some way, and we have seen that in the way that the virus has even traveled here. That is the connection. We are all human beings. Its very hard to sit back and see somebody dying of the Ebola virus. And my plea to people is that we should search deep down into our hearts. Its not right. But that’s what we are given right now. We have to deal with it. But if people can search deep down into their hearts and try to help in any form or shape that they can, I think as a human being, its called for," said Kamara.

One way to help is through a coalition recently set up here in Milwaukee:

CLICK HERE for more on the effort to collect items for those affected by Ebola

CLICK HERE for a list of drop-off sites.

If you’d like to donate money — a Go Fund Me account has been established. CLICK HERE to donate.

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