Aud Bra was a 51-year-old Norwegian nurse. She was a mother of twin boys, aged 21 years.
She was born in Sanderfjord, western part of Norway, where she still resides. Sanderfjord is known for its rich Viking history; where The Gokstad ship was excavated.
The ship is now one of the most important exhibits at the Viking Museum in Oslo.
The city is also famous for whaling. The whaling monument is today found in the centre of the city not far from a restaurant that serves whale meat.
Sanderfjord is not only famous for its rich Viking history and whaling. Between 1837 to 1939 Sanderfjord was a world-renowned health resort.
It was particularly visited for her offering of various kinds of baths; most famous were salt water sea baths, mud and sulphur baths.
Royalty from all over Europe in addition to Prime Ministers and famous people of the day visited the town.
Aud Bra loved Sanderfjord and the other surrounding towns such as Larvik and Tønsberg. As a child, they would visit Tjøme for hiking holidays and to spend time by Lilleskagen, a beautiful beach.
For the past 25 years, she worked as a nurse in the regional hospital. Over the years she has specialised both as an operation nurse and intensive care nurse. She was dedicated and true professional as Norwegian nurses are.
Tall and well-built, she was a down to earth woman. Typical of women her age and life experiences, she valued her independence and the fact she has never “depended on a man” to get her through life.
She had brought up her twin boys alone since they were just two years old.
When she needed to cut the grass in her backyard, she did it herself; when the house needed painting, she did it herself. When she needed to put in a new kitchen, she did most of the work herself. The neighbour’s husband helped, but it was Aud who got the job done.
She was a simple woman. She saw things in simple relations. She watches the news on the national TV, but rarely watch an international news channel.
Life in Sanderfjord was far removed from global problems.
Before she was thrust into the spotlight, she had no opinion on international issues or appreciation of their complexity. Aud saw the world as black and white. There are the good guys and the bad guys.
She also had simple opinions. For example, that Norway is rich and should help poor people. For much of the conflicts and suffering in the world is because of greed and poverty. This was her world view.
For such a woman to be a spokesperson in what has become a complex international crisis is remarkable.
But if you start to see why Aud first became a nurse, you get a hint that she had what it takes to play such a role.
An incident happened to Aud when she was nine.
Her younger brother, then aged seven was hit by a truck and lay in a coma for 3 months before his life support was finally turned off.
This left a deep impact on her. Obviously.
While her brother lay in coma, she went with her mother every day after school to “talk” to him.
Until the outbreak of Ebola, she had never been to Africa.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa was to change her life.
This was the start of a journey that did not end with her nursing accomplishments.
She arrived in Conakry, Guinea on a June evening after more than 12 hours travelling.
Her journey had started in Torp, her local airport in Sanderfjørd.
She took a flight from Torp to Brussels Airport, where she had a 4 hour wait before boarding a 7 hours flight to Conakry, the capital of Guinea.
She then had to travel 50 kilometres from Conakry to the town of Coyah to join other nurses at an Ebola Treatment centre.
As she arrived in Coyah town, the reality of what she was stepping into began to set in just as the sun was setting over the town.
There was one part of her that asked…
” What I am doing here”.
Fourteen hours earlier, she was driving through paved roads in Sandefjørd on her way to Torp Airport. She drove past modern houses, street lights, clean roads and modernity all around her.
Coyah could not be more different!
She drove past huts, thatched houses, semi thatched and a handful of concrete houses.
The road was dusty-red, thick dust.
There were no signs of electricity.
Women were cooking on open fire in front of the huts, in front of thatched houses, in front of semi thatched and in front of the handful of concrete houses.
Aud was in the middle of the “African Bush”!
Many of the children were naked; others only had either tattered shorts or a vest on their dust covered bodies.
She counted 5 that were fully clothed.
The women wore traditional African garments. The men the same.
Some of the young boys had well-worn t-shirts depicting the names of a European football team or a football superstar.
The others, like the older men, wore brightly coloured traditional African attire.
Aud like the contrasting mix and match of different bright colors.
Just on the outskirts of Coyah, the Global Health Organization(GHO) set up one of its Ebola Treatment Centers. The center would serve the Forecariah prefecture.
Aud was housed in a villa that had been rented by one of the NGOs working for the GHO.
Housed behind a ten feet concrete fence, the villa was one of the only modern building in town!
As they approached the gates to the villa, she saw a security guard and military personnel.
As the vehicle got nearer, they both got up. The military personnel had his Ak-47 mounted on his back.
The security guard approached the vehicle while the military personnel, stood in front of the vehicle.
He started chatting with the driver. He looked at Aud as if he was examining her facial features. As he spoke, he put his head in through the driver side window and had a good look in the vehicle.
He was chatting to the driver in a local language; Aud could tell it was not French, although it sounded like French.