Meet Sia: A Health Worker and Survivor Caring for Ebola Patients

Sia Tamba, an Ebola survivor from the IOM - Ebola Treatment Unit in Grand Cape Mount, Liberia. Sia works as a nurse in an IOM managed Ebola treatment unit (ETU). © Martine/UN

By Sandra Tumwesigye

When Sia Tamba spent days treating, feeding and bathing her friend and fellow nurse, she never expected to soon be staring death in the face. Within a few days, Sia had lost a friend and tested positive for Ebola. After two weeks of treatment, she was declared an Ebola survivor.

One of Sia’s first personal tasks as a survivor and nurse was to help other Liberians affected by Ebola. “I decided to work in the Sinje ETU because I felt that the same way health workers helped me to survive, I should deliver care so other Ebola patients can survive,” she explains. Sia, like the over 370 clinical and non-clinical staff at the three IOM-managed Ebola treatment units (ETU), received specialized training through WHO and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, to prepare for the role.

Sia met her first patient on her first day at work. Over the next 20 days she would fulfill her wish to help other Liberians survive Ebola.

One-and-a-half year-old Chely arrived in critical condition and unaccompanied by her mother, because she was admitted in an ETU two hours away, in Monrovia. “As a survivor and a nurse aide, this was a great opportunity for me to serve,” Sia remarks. She goes on to explain, “A baby cannot be left alone and a nurse cannot stay in PPE* for long. So as a survivor I could wear something light and stay in the ward with her day and night.”

Sia was able to monitor Chely around the clock and give the team of doctors and nurses regular reports or call for quick help when necessary. In turn, they relied on her to ensure the baby was receiving a healthy amount of love and care until her mother could be transferred to the Sinje ETU. “She would refuse to eat and the moment I enter, I start petting her and joking with her, she would start eating. The nurses would also tell me, ‘Come and help us give medication to your daughter.’ I used to play around with her, walk with her, joke with her, feed and bathe her. So any moment she sees me she is happy and laughing,” Sia recounts.

When Chely was reunited with her mother and both were discharged as survivors, it was a personal victory for Sia. She explains, “I used to willingly give Chely any care with the hope of her surviving. So as a health worker I feel proud because I want more people to survive and for us to have more survivors in the nation.”

* Personal Protective Equipment