Once upon a time, I lived in Port Harcourt, Nigeria…the former capital of Biafra (how many of you readers remember the Biafran War?) ‘Biafra’ was the southeastern part of Nigeria which wanted to secede from the northern part of Nigeria...the war was both economic and cultural and nearly 1,000,000 people died from famine and starvation during the course of the war….the north literally ‘starved’ the south….the United States was a supporter of the North as was most of the industrialized nations of the world…OIL, Nigeria has vast oil reserves…however, the industrial sector of Nigeria was the northern part and for many, many reasons, the southern Nigerians and the Northern Nigerians could not get it together as to how/when/where/how much, etc. the oil should be extracted/shipped, etc.? The war lasted approximately 2 ½ years.
When I moved there in 1981, it was a bleak community still recovering from the aftermath of the war. Our house was in a guarded compound with approximately 15 other homes/families. We had a cook, driver, private guard (who slept on our porch at night), a gardener and a housekeeper; only two (2) of us lived in the house. My ‘best’ friend was a United Nations’ Ag worker who lived in a house outside the compound. Our compound had a private generator so when we lost power (approximately twice per day), the generator would kick in. My friend did not have a generator so whenever the power went out, she would come to my house to shower, eat, etc.
My doctor during the time that I lived there was an Italian from Milan who was brought to Port Harcourt by the Italian company, AGIP. He treated many of the ex-patriots living in the Port Harcourt area who were not affiliated with companies that had their own physicians. While there, I developed salmonella poisoning; this was my second bout with it. Years’ prior, I had been treated for salmonella poisoning as a result of food that I ate while living in Brazil. The medication the Italian doctor gave me was the same that had cured the previous attack. I was better in a few weeks. Salmonella poisoning is initially identified by fever, nausea and diarrhea…symptoms which manifest themselves as a result of many other virus or bacterial illnesses, including Ebola.
Salmonella poisoning was pretty scary in and of itself; I lost approximately 11 pounds in the time that I was ill in Nigeria; while in Brazil, my period of illness was much longer in duration and the parasite affected a number of my organs. I lost approximately 30 pounds over a six month period. Regardless, I don’t think that I ever thought I was going to die. I can hardly imagine what these individuals feel, either physically or emotionally, once they contract this horrific virus. Are they so physically ill that they don’t think about the ramifications of their illness? Are they so ill that they want to die? I wonder if they accept that their illness is ‘terminal’ at times, however, it is not always so….it is not like having a cancer that has taken over the organs in one’s body and there is not any hope of turning back…Ebola can be cured…
As of September 14, 2014, more than 300 health care workers have become infected with Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nearly half of them have died, according to WHO. To date, more than 2,600 people have died from this Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone has recently lost a fourth doctor to Ebola after a failed effort to transfer her abroad for medical treatment. The loss is a huge setback to Sierra Leone, which is already battling this disease amidst a shortage of Health Care workers. A request to evacuate her was made by the government of Sierra Leone to WHO but the World Health Organization said it could not help medically evacuate her to Germany. Sierra Leone had requested funds to transport her back to Europe stating that the country could not lose another doctor. WHO stated that it could not meet this request, however, instead would work to insure that the doctor received ‘the best care possible’, including access to experimental drugs. She died before help was available. Please remember that at least three (3) American medical workers/patients have been evacuated to the States for treatment here but this was done at the expense of the North Carolina based charity, Samaritan’s Purse.
I have a friend who was instrumental in helping her son open a clinic in Sierra Leone. It was formerly called ‘Global Action Foundation’ but recently changed its name to Wellbody Alliance. Dr. Dan Kelly, a Princeton Undergraduate and Albert Einstein Medical Center Graduate along with Dr. Bailor Barrie, a graduate of the University of Sierra Leone’s medical school in Freetown. The Wellbody Alliance clinic is located in the Kono District of Sierra Leone. They are very much in a position of leadership during this Ebola outbreak. They are distributing protective gear and medicine throughout Sierra Leone and they are staying rooted in their community based approach. They are making home visits on a personal level with all direct contacts in Kono and ensuring these contacts get tested before becoming contagious. As an American, Dr. Dan Kelly’s actions regarding this Ebola outbreak have been covered extensively in the Atlantic, The Huffington Post, the New York Times and both ABC/CBS news. In August, Dr. Kelly was interviewed by the San Francisco Examiner talking about the Ebola crisis and how third parties can put an end to it through crowdfunding.
Nurses are our first line of defense in many health care situations and this Ebola outbreak is certainly not any different. In fact, a nurse in Nigeria has died of Ebola after treating an American consultant killed by the virus there in August. The nurse is the second health worker in Nigeria to die after treating the same consultant, an individual named Patrick Sawyer, who fell ill while flying to Nigeria from Liberia, one of the worse affected countries. This infection has exacerbated the shortage of doctors and nurses in West African countries that were already low is skilled health personnel. So far, only foreign health and aid workers have been evacuated from Sierra Leone and Liberia for treatment.
The United States Government, WHO and almost and/all agencies in West Africa attempting to curb the spread of the Ebola virus has asked for volunteers from the Health Care arena. The government has a website devoted to completing an application for volunteerism to counteract this threat. If anyone reading this is interested in helping this cause, please go to either of the notated websites and complete the application or donate:
The question begs to be answered as to where we would be in the virus immunization process if over 5,000 American citizens had been infected by this killer….I think of the AIDS’ epidemic and how long it took to find a vaccine or an effective treatment…and I remember that Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome mainly affects homosexuals and, yes, there was a long lead time for an effective treatment….but, there has always been a slow response to the atrocities in Africa…be they natural or man-made.
Sierra Leone is under a three (3) day lock down as I write this…no one is permitted on the streets for three (3) days….government employees, medical personnel and 30,000 volunteers have been enlisted to go door to door explaining to the citizens the hazards of Ebola and what the government is attempting to do….the information as to the conditions the citizens have to endure once having contracted the virus are horrific…one can read about these accounts in any major newspaper and hear about them on any major news outlet…There is a part of me that wishes that I could volunteer my services, even without any type of Health Care certification…I’m considering it at this point in time…In the meantime, I’m donating what I can to Wellbody Alliance and I'm hoping and praying for the best….