A NURSE born in Carnforth has flown to Sierra Leone to help treat Ebola victims.
Rebecca Stretch is working with the World Health Organisation to train people in hospitals in how to prevent the spread of the deadly disease, which has no vaccine or cure.
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The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest ever with more than 1,000 deaths so far.
Rebecca’s parents Mary and Malcolm, her grandmother and her brothers’ families face an anxious wait for news.
“We as a family are on tenterhooks but we know she’ll do it,” said Mrs Stretch, of Bloomfield Park, Carnforth.
The former Carnforth High School pupil has expertise in tropical and infectious diseases, and is deputy director of infection prevention and control for Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.
Since landing in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, last Friday, Rebecca has managed to send her mum three text messages to say that she had arrived safely, that her luggage had turned up after five days and that she was moving to Kenema, in the east.
“She knows it’s not a safe place,” said Mrs Stretch. “I think she’s very brave.
“She said it’s grim, but these people need help or they can’t contain the disease. That’s her job - she’s not a hands-on nurse but she advises the World Health Organisation how to stop transmission of di-sease. She’s highly trained – let’s hope it protects her.”
Rebecca, a keen cornet player who started a brass band in Carnforth, first volunteered in Sierra Leone 14 years ago with Médecins Sans Frontières. She has also been on relief missions to Romania and Uzbekistan.
Before flying out on Friday, the specialist nurse said: “For me, this is the equivalent of training as a footballer and then being called up to play in the biggest tournament. I know that will sound odd to people and I can’t really explain it – but it’s what I am trained to do.”
Rebecca will be away at least a month.