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Friday, August 1, 2014

My Heart Breaks: Ebola

A few months ago I read BBC, like I do almost everyday, and continued on my way.  I read an article about the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone.  It caught my eye because Sierra Leone is next to a country of my heart, Liberia.  This blog was created long after my trip there, so don't go searching the archives for best tips of visiting a third world country.  {Although there are many things to think about}  The reason I passed over the article, and the reason I didn't see it's impact, is because I know there is no cure to a virus.  Viruses are adaptable, they change, they morph.  I know this from my time in biology and human anatomy and physiology.  I also know how ill equipped this part of the world is for disease.  Diseases that run rampant there, are little known words to us in more "developed countries" {And what developed does or doesn't mean is a whole other topic}.

What I didn't realize is that this virus would become a part of my world and a part of my every waking moment thoughts.  If you don't know what I'm talking about I suggest you read this article about the actual disease/virus.* 

ELWA, one of the places where Ebola patients are being treated.  
There are rumored reports that the rest of the ELWA hospital has shut down.
Personal photo. Please do not use this photo without permission

Before you get to freaked out, take a deep breath and remember what kind of society you live in.  When you get sick, what do you do?  You stay home, you go to the doctor, you talk to all of your friends, and you agonize over all of the possibilities it could be.  Consequently, you would be treated immediately which includes being quarantined.

Getting this virus is not hard, but but it's not like other viruses that are airborne {Please, don't freak out!  Remember you live in a developed country where we have routine vaccines for many of them.}  Ebola is transferred through human fluids (blood, saliva, human waste), but that also means that it can be transferred by sweaty palms.  In a world where washing your hands is not a basic hygene function this is a problem.  In a country that is near the equator, and thus people sweat all the time, this is a problem.  In a country where relationships are the core of life, this is a problem.  It is tearing this Liberia apart.

My hope is not that you would obsess and become anxious over this, but rather that you would Pray.  
Pray hard.

Liberia has a culture that is deeply rooted in tradition.  It is weary of the government and outside forces.  It is much more comfortable with the witch doctors and home remedies.  There are reports of medical aid workers being met with resistance and protestors.  This is how this people feels it can protect itself.  This is their defense mechanism.  Unfortunately, their unbelief is allowing the disease to infect and spread.  There are two wars going on; one against Ebola and one against information education that counters the culture.

I read the articles and search for the news that brings any announcement from West Africa.  But the news can't tell me about the people I care about.  It can't tell me where Precious is, and whether she is alive.  It can't tell me if Elizabeth knew what was happening when she was hit with the virus.  The news doesn't know whether Jessie tried to run lab tests on his own blood to figure out the disease that was ravaging his body.  The news can't tell me any of the the things I desperately want to know.  
So I pray.  

I pray for those fighting disease, those watching others fight it, for health workers.  I pray for protection on the children whose faces I've seen and the people that have been caring for them, teachers, parents, aid workers.  
Above all I hope.  

*Disclaimer:  This is an overview of the disease, not a medical professional or medical journal.  
*All of the names included are of national Liberian healthcare workers I had the privilege of knowing.  Elizabeth and Jesse have passed away, Precious has contracted the virus and her whereabouts are unknown. There are a few additional people that work with orphaned or poverty level children that are currently at risk. 

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