I apologize to all involved as my comments to the Wall Street Journal were taken out of context and left the unfortunate impression that I do not care about Liberia and Liberians during this crisis. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Over the last seven plus years, I have spent a lot of time working to address some of the gaps in the health care system of the country. My commitment to Liberia, and especially the healthcare system, remains firm. Even during the initial outbreak of Ebola this March, I and my family, including my wife small children, visited Liberia, and I again enjoyed the opportunity to do some work there with friends and colleagues. I will continue to do so.
A native of Liberia, my commitment to our country, especially in this period of extreme need, is unwavering. A health care practitioner, my continued respect for the heroic services of my colleagues remains nothing short of admirable. For me, Ebola is not a nameless and faceless virus. Like many, it has broken my heart. I worked with the late Doctors Samuel Brisbane and Abraham Borbor at the JFK. They were not simply professional colleagues. They were my friends.
Since founding the HEARTT Foundation in 2007, we have recruited medical specialists – almost 100 doctors to volunteer their time at various hospitals in the country, and to teach at the medical school. I cannot state how many countless lives were saved; how many severe aliments were solved; and most importantly for us Liberians, all of the children who were given a chance at a better life by the HEARTT pediatricians.
There are many Liberian medical professionals today on the front line, recruited and trained by HEARTT. We remain very proud of what we have accomplished and deeply humbled for the privilege to assist our people. We may never truly know how many lives we continue to touch and to save. But we know we cannot stop.
From complicated surgeries to teaching others, we cherish what we do. We are proud of what we have been able to achieve so far. What is more, we will continue to do volunteer work in the country knowing that many have been blessed by what we do.
Each time the HEARTT Foundation was able to come to Liberia, we succeeded in caring for the sick or attending to the needy; and touched our own lives in profound ways. We feel a special sense of purpose, and I feel that I am giving back to a country I love and to a people who appreciates what we do.
This is why we do this free of charge – and will continue to do so – without financial contributions from the Government of Liberia.
I returned to Liberia in August of this year to provide assistance to the JFK and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Even as I did, I also met with and urged lawmakers to increase focus on awareness. Privately, I also worked with other United States-based medical professionals to set up "protocols" for identifying Ebola cases, and how best to avoid physical contacts.
While in Liberia, I discovered that there was something else I could also do. It became quite obvious that the greatest risk to fighting the disease was the lack of medical supplies and Personal Protective Equipments (PPE's) by which health care workers would reduce the risk of being infected. I could do something. I knew I could do something. And I did.
A few weeks ago, HEARTT’s donation of almost 70,000 pounds of medical supplies remains one of the largest and fastest responses to the Ebola crisis in the country to date.
Again, I may not be able to provide all that the country will needs, but I will not stop trying until every health care worker has enough PPEs and other medical supplies to fight this disease.
This is what I meant when I said that by “remaining in the US, I could better serve and advocate” for Liberian health care workers and their patients. Today, the HEARTT Foundation spends more than 50% of its time [begging for PPEs], and I will continue to beg, if I must, to get PPEs to Liberia.
Finally, I come to Liberia three or four times every year. I do not intend to stop now. Along with volunteers whom we sponsor, I come to give back – to provide care for those who need it and simply cannot afford it. And I will continue to do so. I look forward to returning as soon as I can. As has always been the case, I will continue to do my best.
God bless Liberia.
Dr. J. Adamah Sirleaf