Boston doctor training others to fight Ebola on front lines

The death toll from Ebola in West Africa now tops 4,500, and the spread of the deadly virus shows little sign of slowing.

But among those fighting the disease is a Boston doctor who cared for Ebola patients in the region, and is now training other doctors, reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.

Suiting up for safety in Ebola protective gear

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mock Ebola ward in Anniston, Alabama, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia showed medical clinicians how to get in and out of their personal protective equipment.

Dr. Bhadelia knows first-hand that these suits and important training, can save doctors' lives from the Ebola virus.

"The first time you do anything, when walk into this environment or anywhere else, you are going to be scared," she said. "I had never seen patients with Ebola."

In August, Dr. Bhadelia, director of infection control at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories at Boston University and infectious disease doctor at Boston Medical Center, worked inside this ramshackle Kenema government hospital in Sierra Leone.

Flooded with as many as 100 Ebola patients and lacking basic resources, the facility was forced to turn away patients each day.

"Your time in the unit is limited because of the exhaustion that occurs while you are in this personal protective equipment," she said. "You start sweating the minute you put it on. It is unbearable."

Problems also arise from elements that exist in a developing country.

"Electricity goes out all the time," she said. "You're in the unit, you're treating a child, electricity goes out and it's the dark. You leave that child. You know that child may not survive. To be the physician in that moment with that patient, it's the hardest thing you'll ever do."

Dr. Bhadelia says personal safety is the number one priority.

Putting the Ebola outbreak in perspective

The epidemic has infected more that 400 health care workers and killed more than 200 in West Africa.

"At Kenema while I was there, two nurses, two lab technicians, an ambulance driver and the last physician got the disease and died," she said.

But there's one story she told that kept her focused on her purpose.

"I was in the tent one of the last days I was there, taking care of this man who was older and very, very sick and I said over and over again 'what's your name? Tell me your name,'" she recalled. "And he kept mumbling the same thing over and over again. And then I finally leaned in and what he was saying was 'I'm nobody.' And the reason I have had the strength to do what I did is because he is not nobody."

Like anyone else she's treated, she said, those patients are human beings too.

"They are families, they are parents, grandparents, kids, and you are seeing entire families getting wiped out from this disease," she said. "That is enough. That was my motivation."

Since her return, Dr. Bhadelia has also been speaking at universities to answer questions and urge for resources to West Africa.

She hopes to travel to Liberia to be back on the front lines as soon as next month.