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A picture is worth a thousand words.

Morris Zolu, Kaifouba Kamara, and Joseph Walatee with their pictures attached to their protective gear.

Morris Zolu, Kaifouba Kamara, and Joseph Walatee with their pictures attached to their protective gear. Photo credit: Marc Campos

Picture this: you’re feeling groggy, foggy, and confused. Your head throbs, your body is weak — you’ve been taken from your home into a strange, unfamiliar place. You look up and see people covered from head to toe in white plastic suits, picking at you with hands and tools, afraid. You can make out a pair of eyes through the goggles, but other than that, you have no idea who is holding your life in their hands.

I feel uncomfortable just thinking of this hypothetically; I can’t imagine actually living it.

As we’ve heard from our televisions, smartphone push notifications, and hysterical friends (everyone has at least one!), West Africa has been ravaged by Ebola over the past year. As of April 18, 2015, 10,715 people have died from the current outbreak.

When patients are herded by the dozens into treatment facilities, poked and prodded by the masked and suited health care workers trying to save their lives, it’s easy to lose that sense of humanity one normally experiences when seeking care. While the protective layers that Ebola care workers armor themselves with are critical to ensuring their safety, it also strips away any semblance of personal touch and comfort. So often we rely on the warm smile and the calm touch of our doctors and nurses to comfort us and alleviate our fears that it’s incredibly difficult to be in a situation where we are deprived of that contact.

We found this great article from PRI.org that details how one LA-based artist, Mary Beth Heffernan, sought to bring that sense of humanity and personal touch back into West African Ebola treatment centers.

Armed with cameras, 6 printers, ink cartridges, and labels, Heffernan captured images of these selfless healthcare workers in the light that they would want their patients to see them — a friendly face behind the mask. She turned the photos into wearable portraits, a sort of visual ID card to break down the communication barrier the protective suits create.

We love this creative, low-cost solution that helps to bring us back to the basics of patient-centered care in the time of a global health crisis. Not every problem needs a grand solution; sometimes, a simple fix can do the trick.

Kudos, Mary Beth Heffernan!

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