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Loneliness and Comedy in the Ebola Ward

Dr. Darin Portnoy working at ELWA3 in Monrovia, Liberia
Dr. Darin Portnoy working at ELWA3 in Monrovia, LiberiaPhotograph by Augustin Morales/MSF

Old instincts die hard, and preparing for his first night shift on the Ebola isolation ward in Monrovia, Liberia, Dr. Darin Portnoy couldn’t help but note the full moon.

“From the time I’ve worked in the ER, the full moon is often when the crazier stuff happens,” the Bronx clinician said. He was “juicing up”—caffeinating—with an after-dinner coffee, then meeting up with an epidemiologist who’d be joining him. He’d be on from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. “I actually suspect tonight will be relatively peaceful,” he predicted, but added that his rounds on the Ebola ward had taught him to expect the unexpected.