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St. Paul Nurse Heading To Africa To Fight Ebola Outbreak

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The shortage of doctors, nurses and medical equipment is making the Ebola outbreak in West Africa difficult to contain.

Tuesday, the United Nations Secretary General urged the international community to step up and help out.

Ban Ki-Moon says a coordinated global response is essential. He has appointed the U.N.’s public health expert to work on the effort.

More than 1,000 people have died in the Ebola outbreak in the last few months. The victims are primarily in Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Here in the Twin Cities, pediatric nurse Carrie Jo Cain is packing her bags and heading to Sierra Leone next week.

Cain works in the emergency room at St. Paul’s Children’s Hospitals. Her parents were missionaries and moved her and her brothers to Sierra Leone when she was just six-months-old.

She grew up in Africa, but returned to Minnesota to go to college. Now she’s going back, taking her medical expertise, her knowledge of several languages and her compassion to help fight the Ebola outbreak.

She has years of experience dealing with crisis and emergencies, and she knows what it means to be needed.

“When I stand back and look, I think wow, God has directed my paths for this time and this place and I have to trust in that, and He has control of this,” Cain said.

A few days from now, Cain will be working in a hospital in a rural area of Sierra Leone, teaching community health workers how to treat patients, while at the same time protecting themselves from the deadly disease.

“I can take the education and knowledge. I can take supplies from here. I can cross completely into that culture. I have so many contacts and friends and established within the healthcare system there, and in legitimate ways to fit in and impact and make a difference there,” she said.

Cain says the biggest problem is the lack of protective gloves, masks, goggles and gowns to keep the Ebola virus from spreading from patient to caregiver.

“You’re dealing with buckets of water. How do you wash your hands after every patient? There’s not enough gloves for every patient interaction. There’s not enough gowns and protective equipment,” she said. “They’re the ones I’m worried about. They’re the ones on the front line.”

Cain showed us photos from her childhood years in Sierra Leone with her family and her friends, with whom she is still in frequent contact.

She believes she will be safe.

“We’re going to take precautions. If we have interaction with sick patients, we’re going to protect ourselves,” she said.

Cain says the need for protective gear for doctors and nurses, as well as medical supplies and medicine, is huge.

She says the conditions inside hospitals are so bad than many nurses and doctors have stopped going to work out of fear.

If you would like to help in the effort to send those needed supplies to West Africa, and find information on the organizations that Cain is working with as she travels, click here and here.

Her plane ticket costs nearly $4,000, and it’s an expense she is paying for herself. Her visit is only for a week.

She has accepted a job as the head of nursing at a hospital and will be moving to Sierra Leone with her husband and 7-year-old daughter in January.

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