British nurse who survived Ebola seeks ‘closure’ on return to Sierra Leone

Scottish nurse who survived Ebola after working in Sierra Leone said on Wednesday that her return to the country to raise money for orphans and survivors would offer her some “closure”.

Pauline Cafferkey, 39, contracted the virus in December 2014 when she was working in a treatment facility in Sierra Leone at the height of the epidemic which swept through West Africa.

Cafferkey, who now works as a nurse in Scotland, is returning to Sierra Leone next month, for the first time since contracting Ebola, to raise funds for the charity Street Child.

She told the BBC in an interview on Wednesday that it would be “psychologically important for me to go back”.

“That’s where things started for me and I’ve had a terrible couple of years since then, so it’d be good to go back and have things come full circle for me,” she said in the interview.

“It’ll be a little bit of closure, and I want to end it with something good, something positive.”

The first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in Britain, Cafferkey suffered life-threatening complications from the deadly disease persisting in her brain, and has been admitted to hospital several times over fears of a recurrence.

She also faced disciplinary action over allegations she concealed her temperature on her return from Sierra Leone, but was cleared by a nursing watchdog last September.

Cafferkey said she wanted to return to Sierra Leone to raise money rather than do so at home because it was “more personal”.

Some 12,000 children were orphaned in Sierra Leone by Ebola, 1,400 of whom need urgent support, according to Street Child.

Cafferkey will also meet some of the thousands of Ebola survivors in the country, many of whom are suffering stigma and health problems, and are struggling to access care, experts say.

“I had massive support from family and friends and could get medical and psychological support,” she told the BBC.

“The Ebola patients in Sierra Leone didn’t know what they were going home to, or who was left alive in their family. They might be going back to sheer hell.”

The world’s worst Ebola outbreak – which was declared over last year – killed more than 11,300 people and infected some 28,600 as it swept through Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea from 2013.