60 Minutes interviews Esperance Ebola nurse Anne Carey

Brave: Anne Carey recalled her experiences working in Sierra Leone on 60 Minutes. Photo: WIN Network.
Brave: Anne Carey recalled her experiences working in Sierra Leone on 60 Minutes. Photo: WIN Network.

COMFORTING a woman who had just lost her seventh child – a four-week-old – to Ebola is just one of the many stories Esperance nurse Anne Carey has shared with the nation on current affairs program 60 Minutes.

Ms Carey, 56, was one of the first Australians to arrive in Sierra Leone as the disease spread across west Africa.

Her story was aired on 60 Minutes on Sunday night.

Interviewed during her third trip volunteering with the Red Cross, Ms Carey described Ebola as an “unfair bully” because it did not discriminate against who it chose as its next victim.

“It takes everybody, it doesn't matter who you are,” she said during the 60 Minutes interview.

“If you let it in, it will take you.”

In terrifying footage taken from inside the ‘Ebola death zone’, audiences had a rare opportunity to see the devastating impact of the virus.

Of 23,000 people infected with the disease, at least 10,000 are known to have died from the side effects of Ebola, which critically weakened the immune system and caused organ failure.

During the interview Ms Carey said she had witnessed countless deaths of parents and children, describing her experience comforting a woman who had just watched her last remaining, four-week-old child bleed to death.

The women had lost all seven of her children to the disease.

“When this child died, she had nothing to live for,” she said.

Ms Carey felt all she could do was hold her hand and hope she was offering some sort of comfort to the grieving woman.

Speaking with 60 Minutes reporter Michael Usher, Ms Carey said her role was as much about emotional care as medical treatment.

“There comes a point where you know they’re going to die, so there’s not much point in trying anything else other than pain relief for them,” she said.

“You get used to that look when people are going to die.

“If you know someone is going to die, you can spend 40 minutes more [with them] so they’re not so scared.”

Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, meaning one touch from an unprotected person could be deadly.

Yet, Ms Carey has bravely worked to take blood from sick patients, armed with just a plastic protective suit and the litres of chlorine used to sanitise the makeshift medical facility.

During the program Ms Carey said comprehending the feelings of loss and grief was not something she had come to terms with yet.

“I think there will be a time where I will grieve later on, but while you’re here there’s not a time to do that,” Ms Carey said.

“By wearing the suit I think it shields you a little bit – shields your heart and head from your emotions to deal with that later.”

Ms Carey’s partner, local doctor Donald Howarth, said while he worried about her safety, he understood her cause.

“One of the great privileges of being a health worker is that you watch a lot of people die, and it makes you a lot more philosophical about how you’re using your own time,” he said.

Despite receding from media coverage, Ebola prevails, but Ms Carey remained positive the fight against the virus would be won.

“I feel like we’re going to win the war,” she said.

“I think in the end we’ll get there.”

You can watch the full interview here.