For generations Liberians have heard about a ‘sick bush’ being defined as a place where the sick go for spiritual and physical healing. Very seldom do you run across people who had actually been in one; and if they lived long enough to tell the story, it always turn out to be an interesting one.
The names in this article have been changed to protect the identities of the real persons.
Sienna and 33 year-old Massa have shared the same floor in a sick bush on the outskirts of Gbarpolu for the past four months. Sienna has a sickness that his family says, ‘cannot heal no matter what medications he takes.”
As for Massa, well, a couple of years ago after she gave birth to her last child, she was unable to walk and gradually lost strength in her body.
“Basically, my family thought that I would die, so they took me to the sick bush. I thought I would get better there, but when we reached there ma, it was fearful.”
According to Massa, who is presently admitted at the Redemption hospital after many months of not being treated, the sick bush is not a hospital but a dying place.
“My family and the people there talked over me while I was down there thinking that I would probably not make it, but they would be praying. Every day, they would come inside the dark room, throw water and things on us and start beating things and singing.”
This did not make her feel any better, she said.
“Days, months, I cannot remember, went by and no one was doing anything to help me get well. A man who could not speak anything other then his dialect would come in the room, beat on my legs and instructed me to walk,” which she could not do. And whenever she refused to walk, the prayers and drumbeating persisted.
“Sick bush is not a place to take your relative, especially if you want them to live,” she warned.
Meanwhile, our reporter was able to get an image of the sick people lying on the ground in the sick bush. Massa assisted in making sure her friend Sienna was seen in the photo.
“Sienna is already dead, only his body is inside there now. Sometimes when he has strength to talk, he’ll just say, ‘aye me, aye God.”
According to Massa, this is one of the reasons why she became his friend. “He has no one, no one comes out here to see him,” she added.
Meanwhile, our reporter spoke with a Redemption Hospital caretaker who works in the ER department that revealed some of the reasons why he thinks a lot of people go to the sick bush and never come out.
“Some people spend a lot of money trying to get their relatives well and give up when they are not responding to treatment or country medicine. The relative is taken to the sick bush without any medicine, prescription, or directions on what to do. The attendants in the bush are only told to do what they are there to do and that’s to watch them to make sure they don’t get up and leave,” he said.
According to the healthcare worker, being admitted in a sick bush is almost like being given a prison sentence, “and you have to do your time until you are well or spiritually healed,” he added.