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Ready to go back

Rollins graduate serves on the Ebola frontlines in Nigeria

By Martha N. McKenzie

Story Photo

Megan Klingler (above) supervised the proper donning and doffing of protective gear and provided care for Ebola patients in Nigeria. Photo courtesy of Megan Klingler

Within three months of earning her MPH in global health from Rollins in May, Megan Klingler 14MPH was working on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Lagos, Nigeria. A registered nurse, Klingler had served off and on with Doctors Without Borders (DWB) for the past seven years. So as soon as the ink was dry on her diploma, she asked the humanitarian aid organization to send her into the heart of the outbreak.

"I've always thought it was so hard to watch disasters unfold on TV and not be able to help," says Klingler. "The whole reason I got my nursing degree and then my MPH was so that I would be able to help."

Klingler was originally charged with educating health facility workers about Ebola and proper protective precautions. However, when the disease surfaced in Port Harbour, another Nigerian city, half of Klingler's DWB contingent was dispatched to that site, and Klingler was tapped to serve as the isolation nurse manager in Lagos. In that role, she supervised the proper donning and doffing of protective gear by the facility's nurses and doctors and other infection control measures. She also provided direct patient care.

"I felt very comfortable that we were well protected," says Klingler, who earned a certificate in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies with her MPH. "We were given two days of excellent, intensive training before we came. The only people who were allowed to come on this mission were those who had been on several Doctors Without Borders missions before, so everyone was experienced. This was my fifth mission but my first dealing with a hemorrhagic fever."

Klingler was less prepared for the pervasive atmosphere of panic and its resulting devastation. Patients with treatable conditions, such as malaria and gastroenteritis, were turned away from health facilities by panicked workers because their symptoms mirrored those of Ebola. "I had to spend two days in the morgue testing dead bodies to see if they had Ebola or not," says Klingler. "I remember testing a year-and-a-half old baby. She had gastroenteritis and died because she did not get treatment. So when the news reports the number of people who have died of Ebola, you have to remember there are many more who have died as a consequence of fear of Ebola."

After serving the maximum six-weeks allowed by Doctors Without Borders, Klingler returned to Atlanta to nurse an ear infection and dutifully take her temperature twice daily. However, she has already requested another mission and is just waiting to find out where she will be sent. "This is what I've trained to do," she says. "I'm ready to go back."

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