The Ebola Crisis in Liberia: Remembering Dr. Sam

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I have never felt the effect of hearing instant news that could be so disturbing like the troubling information posted few days ago on social media Facebook that a doctor at the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town had become the latest prey of the deadly Ebola virus. It has been a strong conviction for me that the initiative taken by the Government and its international partners, like the United States Embassy near Monrovia through preventive measures and media campaigns, were the actual basis for overcoming the threat and harm the disease posed in its incipiency, and not the vain argument propounded for and against the presence and prevalence of the disease in Liberia. The news had sadly broken me down because I once had an incredible and life-saving encounter with the victim.

My Experience with Dr. Sam

I was admitted at the Redemption Hospital early 2013 and after thorough diagnostic and medical examination on me I was informed that I needed surgery without delay. Like anyone whose fate lay momentarily in the hands of another or a group of people, there would be apparent fears as to how such an exercise would be conducted to achieve the ultimate end- survival. That operation was the second in my life, the first in 1984 at the Firestone [Du-Side] Hospital.

While undergoing the normal preliminary formalities few days before the surgery I saw this man a couple of times at the main entrance of the hospital dressed in his green Operation Room (OR) outfit with footwear that appeared like rain boots. He was smartly attired like one elder during our days in Firestone who was also an OR technician. Very little did I know that the man I had seen for the past hours was the one soon to be the surgeon to handle my case. There then I heard also that he was called Dr. Sam and had hailed from an East African country, I believe, was Uganda.

Precisely on Tuesday, February 12, I was taken to the theatre and after few minutes, Dr. Sam, and a team of practitioners entered the room and came to my bedside. I was awake the entire period of the operation and heard every bit of the conversation he had with the man who principally assisted him as the instruments clicked my skin. Of the many sentences he uttered was one in which he asked if the man standing by him was seeing how my case had gotten complicated. The only response I heard from the man was: “Thank God; it is good that you [Dr. Sam] are the one carrying out this operation.” This to me did not imply in any way that Dr. Sam was the best in the array of qualified medical practitioners at the hospital, but he believed as I did also, that the doctor possessed extraordinary competence and skill and had over the years commanded a huge grasp and heap of the reality that unfolded. God was there first, and then Dr. Sam. My surgery was successful and I departed the hospital two days later. Dr. Sam though had come to contribute to improving the health sector of our country, earnestly and truly deserved to live. At the time of my hospitalization there was a heightening wave of armed robbery in Monrovia and its environs and I can remember his concern on that particular day about how he would protect with steel doors the building that housed him.

To have heard the shocking news that this son of Africa who had left his homeland to come to Liberia for the sake of humanity, has succumbed to the fatal carriage of the Ebola virus in such untimely manner is something if I had the power, will not truly accept, especially because of the sacrifice made by the victim in the midst of the callous approach that some Liberians have adopted in perceiving and dealing with the Ebola situation– the educated and uneducated beating their chests that the disease does not exist in Liberia, and that the Government through the Ministry of Health was only faking and stage making for financial gains.

For the loss of this man it is my plea that the Government of Liberia will make the necessary representation to his family back home, to express regret for his loss, and to inform them that Dr. Sam died so that Liberians can live. This initiative should be taken on behalf of all of us who truly believe the existence of the virus in the country and even Liberians who doubt only because they or their relations have not been affected.

Looking Through the Ebola Controversy

Barely two months ago media reports sparked fear in the population about an outbreak of the Ebola virus which automatically became traumatic for some people since measures to prevent the disease were daily routines that were almost practically unavoidable. These included handshake, hugging and kissing.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report the Ebola virus disease (EVD) which was formerly called Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe, often fatal illness in human. It is very alarming, according to the report, that the EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%, meaning in common words that survival from such outbreak is very slim. Moreover what is scaring about the virus’ prevalence is the risk associated with the unavailability, as yet, of treatment because the report has categorically disclosed that there is ‘no licensed specific treatment or vaccine available for use in people or animals.’ It is even more troubling to know that men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery from the illness.

The disease has been striking not only in Liberia, but also in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, leaving much casualties then we even have domestically. Are the situations in the neighborhood fictitious too and being used for corrupt purposes? As measures to deal with the outbreak, people are being kept under surveillance to determine potential contraction. These latest developments have largely attracted the attention of the International Community, and not taking the issue lightly has convened a special summit of Health Ministers of a dozen African countries for possible remedy to the crisis. By these, I know much financial, human and material resources are being used in these endeavors. The Government of Liberia, in my judgment, has done a remarkable piece of job paying attention to the crisis, beginning with its information dissemination to the public and the visit of the President few weeks ago to the Redemption Hospital, concentration point of the virus. However more needs to be done since the situation seems to be deteriorating.

My Frustration over Perceptions of Fellow Liberians on the Ebola Situation

With the death of people infected by the disease and the precautious guillotining of those suspected, I feel compelled to state my frustration on the entire matter. I do not understand why Liberians have gotten so divided the way I see. There is almost no consensus in anything that comes before us, whether to build us up as a people or to destroy us. I am strongly convinced today that if we went to a national referendum on whether or not to restart the 14-year civil war, or whether to perpetually eliminate the Lone Star football team from all international competitions, there will be significant votes for the negative, eventhough not necessarily to earn overall endorsement because those of us who know ourselves, for example on the war scene, and what we endured will accept no other option than engendering peace and stability and rebuilding our lives.

Constant denial of the existence or prevalence of Ebola in Liberia may further complicate our situation since some of our compatriots feel that Government is merely wolfing the Ebola crisis in a clever attempt to ‘eat money.’ People of Liberia, in this 21st century of technology, does it make sense to try to disprove medical science by taking suspected Ebola-infected persons to prayer homes rather than hospitals, only after few days to remove their copses to graveyards? By expressing this concern as a student of Theology also, I do not doubt the power of God being manifested in the prayers of the church, yet in the very Bible we read lies a very great admonition from Jesus Christ when He declared that it is the sick who needs a doctor (Luke 5:31). When institutions like the church drifts from this fundamental truth, it signifies that we as a people are heading for a national disaster.

On the issue of ‘eating money’, we ought to be very serious here. As much as I would abhor corruption as criticisms abounds over the menace, I believe that if the officials of Government or the men and women who run the health sector were bent on ‘eating money’, they would do it in other differently obscured ways and not with the outbreak of a mercilessly fatal disease that is not directed absolutely to a particular person or a group of people. Do we have to doubt this catastrophe until a loved one of ours is infected or killed before we join the fight against it? Or are we waiting for our political leaders to speak about the virus one day before we can alter our doubts that the crisis really does exist? The way I see us treat this virus in the eyes of the International Community might affect the very efforts that are being made already, reasons being that they are spending their money and we are saying to them: no need to do so because your money is misdirected [even when it is bringing relief to our kinsmen].

As I bring this article to closure, let me caution all of us that if we never thought like this before, the time has come to love ourselves, to love others, and to love our country. When people of other countries emerged from their war situations, like in Rwanda, they realized first that they had been in error fighting and killing each other. Secondly, they had remorse for the needless loss of their kinsmen and the level of damage they had done to their motherland. Then thirdly they resolved to revert to their ugly past no more, whatever the temptations were. When a people cultivate such a bundle of mindsets they can be sure of rebuilding their shattered lives for perpetual co-existence. We disrespect our leaders so much in this country. Let us begin to see our leaders as those we chose to represent our interest domestically and externally and if there are reasons to believe perhaps we made a mistake by electing them, let us wait for the democratic space to right our wrong.

To the homes and families that have been hit by these rounds of the Ebola outbreak, it is my sincere prayers that the Almighty will quickly intervene in this renewed health crisis by containing the disease so that all of us can live. To the passing of Dr. Sam, eternal peace!

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