During the Ebola epidemic that devastated the entire nation, there was a man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who ‘unknowingly’ contracted the disease in Liberia and left for the United States days afterwards. Like so many who contracted Ebola and did not know they had come in contact with it, Eric arrived in the U.S. on September 28, 2014, and started feeling ‘feverish.’ With a soaring temperature of 103 degrees, he rushed to the Texas Health Resources in Dallas Texas. There he was given Tylenol and sent home, despite the fact that he told them he was from Liberia.
“This is a great example of what happens in America; if you make a mistake, you pay for it. Texas Health Resources in Dallas Texas made a mistake and Eric lost his life in the process. Because of that, they came to me and asked me what I wanted to do and I decided,” stated Mr. Weeks.
On September 29, 2014, Eric was rushed back to the hospital where it was confirmed that he had Ebola. “We talked every day until the day he passed,” Mr. Weeks added.
With media coverage of his four day stay in the hospital and the courageous advocacy that his nephew Josephus Weeks put in place before and after his demise, Eric’s passing did not go in vain. Josephus Weeks, with the moral support of Rev Jessie Jackson, the late Duncan’s mother and children, was able to “obtain” with much advocacy a gift for the Liberian people for the memory of his fallen uncle.
“Eric is not here, I am. So like I fought for Eric when he was alive I will continue to fight for him in his death,” Weeks said.
The “gift,” the Thomas Eric Duncan Scholarship Program, was launched recently just as Mr. Weeks had promised, to improve the healthcare system, which Mr. Weeks believes Liberia critically needs.
The program recently awarded scholarships to eight qualified health practitioners (two anesthesiologists, OB, midwife and an X-ray technician, among others).
This was ranked an historic event, according to SIM executive Director, David L. Writebol, one that could maximize the potential for strengthening the health care system. The scholarships will sponsor the training of doctors and other professionals in the health care sector.
“After training, they will come back better and more efficient in their jobs; they will come back and work at ELWA Hospital. Some will be sent out depending on their skills or required training. These scholarships are given out for training in skills that are greatly needed. The recipients were selected, depending on the needs of the country right now and which professionals we don’t have,” said Writebol.
“This is something that I promised, a gift to Liberia because we need a lot of improvement in our health care system. This opportunity was presented to me and I seized it and we’re going to take full advantage of it,” Mr. Weeks said
“Eric will not die in vain. For the rest of our lives, Thomas Eric Duncan will always be remembered as the man who went to America and brought a gift back to you. But know that all is forgiven. Out of a tragedy we got triumph and we got a gift for you. This gift is all yours and you can have this gift because it belongs to you too.”
Mr. Weeks wants his uncle’s name to be remembered for the better, not as the man many Liberians in the past sought to see punished because he “took” Ebola to America. According to Mr. Weeks, there is no animosity towards anyone.
“I forgive the Liberian people for not knowing what was going on in America and just listening to what the news said. Eric had no idea he was sick. He went to the hospital and complained that he was from Liberia, unfortunately they didn’t listen to him at the time and based on that we were able to make a deal,” he added.
In the meantime, many are still curious about the deal that Mr. Weeks struck with Texas Health Resources and according to him, it was a deal that cannot replace Eric, but is satisfying.
“The scholarship is something that I initiated. I broke out a deal with the hospital where unfortunately they did not give him the proper care. So the punitive action was three guidelines that I set to make sure that I got an apology for his kids, his mom and dad, also and a fund is set up in his name that his name will live on forever and that he didn’t die in vain,” he added.