The life-saving work of one Liberian midwife – An Al Jazeera Documentary

Hannah Gibson was one of two midwives selected for a pilot training programme that teaches advanced obstetrics such as emergency Caesarean sections [Dan Boaden/Al Jazeera]
Hannah Gibson was one of two midwives selected for a pilot training programme that teaches advanced obstetrics such as emergency Caesarean sections [Dan Boaden/Al Jazeera]
During the Ebola crisis, Hannah Gibson never stopped working and even learned how to perform life-saving surgery.

By Dan Boaden is a documentary filmmaker and journalist whose work covers the fields of health, science and technology.

Hannah Gibson, 36, first heard about Ebola when she arrived in Liberia in March 2014.

At the time she was stationed at C B Dunbar Maternity Hospital in rural Bong County, about 200km west of the Liberian capital Monrovia.

Gibson was also just six months into a pilot training programme teaching midwives advanced obstetrics, such as emergency Caesarean sections.

In July 2014, a patient with perceived malaria symptoms arrived at Phebe Hospital, a half-hour drive from C B Dunbar. The patient deteriorated despite treatment and the staff realised that this was the first Ebola case in the county.

Five nurses died as a result of the initial misdiagnosis and panic spread across the county’s healthcare services.

“There was a lot of fear in me and the other midwives regarding the disease and how it kills people very fast,” Gibson recalls.

She says most of the midwives at C B Dunbar fled, “leaving the hospital in the hands of the medical director and us, the trainees.

“Phebe Hospital had a lot [of] nurses die … but we took the challenge because C B Dunbar is a maternity hospital, the only maternity hospital in the county and all the referral counties – so we had to work. We stayed at the hospital working.”

Liberia after Ebola: Turning midwives into surgeons

Fear pervaded the small C B Dunbar team as they operated with very limited medical supplies, a lack of protective gear and no external support. They continued to manage maternity care for the county’s population of 330,000 people, while struggling to obtain further medical supplies.

“It was scary. Every time you go to work and you leave and go home, you start to worry. Have I come in contact with anybody? You have to tell your children to go away, not to come around you,” Gibson, a mother of three girls, recalls.

Patients showing symptoms of Ebola were turned away at the hospital gate and sent to the county’s Ebola treatment unit, which was set up in September that year and was the second to open in Liberia. Gibson says it was difficult to go against her instinct to help but acknowledges that the maternity hospital didn’t have the safety equipment or staff to admit Ebola patients. Culled From Al Jazeera online

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About Cholo Brooks 15607 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.