WHO has published Life after Ebola has new meaning for two survivors now helping others. Excerpt from a long article:
Ebola hit Mohamed and Zena’s family hard. By the time it was over, 9 members of one family were infected and 6 died.
The older brother of Mohamed died, followed by his wife and a 10 year old son. The boy was so attached to his father that he did not leave his side while he was ill.
Mohamed was admitted to a hospital in Conakry on 21 March along with his wife. There he found Zena and other members of the family. All together they were admitted to the same isolation ward, in difficult conditions. Zena said that they vomited so much that they thought they would never survive.
They were not told they have Ebola until late in their treatment. They were very sick and suffering from heat in difficult conditions, and they will never forget that they saw 2 of their uncles succumb to Ebola in front of their eyes.
Both said that when the first MSF and WHO medical and nursing staff arrived at the hospital where they were in isolation, they started to get medical attention and care and they slowly started to recover.
Mohamed said he will never forget the people who take care of us. One of their doctors back in March was Dr Robb Fowler, a physician from Canada who is seconded to WHO and has been treating patients in the field.
Dr. Fowler came to the Accra meeting and met the two people whose lives he had saved. The reunion of the three was very emotional. They huddled closely and recalled their moments together in the hospital, talked about other doctors, including another WHO physician who saw them, Dr. Tom Fletcher. They talked about those who lived and those who died.
Zena, a 24 year old woman who was a school teacher, and Mohamed, a 34 year old civil servant, both lost their jobs. Zena said she received a phone call from the school telling her not to come back because parents and children are afraid of Ebola contamination. It made her sad because she loved her work and the students, although some came to visit her and told her they miss her.
Mohammed said people told him they think that being an Ebola patient means that you are dead, you will never recover, that it will kill you, no matter what you do.
But now they have found a way to help. Zena and Mohamed work in their communities, going from place to place to talk to people, families, relatives of the ill and others about Ebola. They work with Medecins Sans Frontieres and others, in effect acting as ambassadors.
Mohamed and Zena give talks about what Ebola is, how to prevent infections and emphasize that people who go to health centres can survive.
They are living examples.
Stigma and fear still exist but they are proud to give back some of their time and experience to communities. They contribute their personal stories and experience to save lives and control the outbreak.