Chief Nurse, Lassa Ward, Kenema Government Hospital
Nurse Mbalu Fonnie worked as the Chief Nurse at the Lassa ward of the Kenema Government Hospital. She was a midwife by trade and worked with Lassa Fever since 1989, when she herself contracted the disease at the Nixon Memorial Hospital in Segbwema when assisting in the delivery of a baby by a woman infected with the virus. She worked with a team of ten nurses and nurse’s aids at the Lassa ward
When talking about her own experience with Lassa Fever, Nurse Fonnie described how she was initially treated with two rounds of antimalarial drugs. When her symptoms persisted including high fever, vomiting, red eyes and a puffy face, she was eventually tested for Lassa and treated with ribavirin. After a slow recovery she was able to return to work after 3 or 4 months. Two other midwives had died before she herself fell ill, which created a lot of fear among the hospital workers in Segbwema. Nurse Fonnie was asked to take on the responsibility of delivering babies for Lassa patients, as she had survived her own bout of illness and it was believed that she now become immune (in fact there are several strains of Lassa virus, so this may not be the case).
Nurse Fonnie saw her work at the Lassa ward as her way of helping the people of Sierra Leone in battling a disease that represents a huge burden on public health.
In July 2014, Nurse Mbalu Fonnie tragically passed away after contracting Ebola Virus Disease while administering care to infected patients at the Kenema Government Hospital.