On The Ebola Frontline In Sierra Leone: Another Hero Falls
Dr. Sarh Rogers
Yet again, we’ve lost another hero to the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.
Liberia and Guinea are also combating the disease, also detected in Nigeria and Congo.
Rest in peace Dr. Sarh Rogers. The passing of Dr. Rogers brings to three, the number of doctors that have succumbed to the Ebola virus. The sacrifices by these heroes to save lives have in fact caused them theirs.
Their stories are similar. Dr. Sheik Umar Khan reportedly openly hugged each Ebola survivor as a way of reducing the stigma associated with the disease. It is believed that he may have contracted the disease from one of his patients. Dr. Modupe Cole reportedly sprinted into action to catch a violently fallen patient. He reportedly had no gloves on at the time and the patient tested positive for Ebola later.
Dr. Rogers continued to treat the sick in his clinic; the few remaining healthcare centers open during the current outbreak. According to reports, one of his patients later tested positive for Ebola. He may have caught the virus treating people he thought were sick of other diseases. While we remember these falling heroes, we must recognize the few that remain undeterred in their commitment to continue to work under such a risky condition. There are many out there and one of them in my brother.
Dr. Sulay Jabati Wai, is one of the few remaining healthcare providers at the Ebola epicenter in eastern Sierra Leone. Dr. Wai is a physician at the Catholic Mission Hospital in Panguma, Kailahun District. In Kailahun District alone, there are 450 people infested with the Ebola virus according the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health.
Extrapolate that to a population of about 400,000 based on likely contacts, and you will be left with a significant number of potential Ebola suspects in an area of about 1,800 square miles. The chance for an Ebola patient to show up in his hospital is highly likely. For that, I worry about him every day.
Speaking to Dr. Wai, who is my brother, via phone two days ago from Panguma, he came across resolute, while recognizing the need for care. I had called to check on him and also talk to him about Dr. Rogers, one of his colleagues who had contracted the virus that week. On the phone, he sounded relaxed as if things were normal.
The moment I mentioned Dr. Rogers, he interrupted by disclosing that, “yea, he has just passed away”. He broke the news to me almost like in passing. I paused for a moment in disbelief for the lack of fear in the voice of a man whose colleague had just died doing what they all do daily. Trying to protect my own, I suggested the idea of shutting down the hospital for now.
“Well, someone has to do this”, he reminded me.
Ok, I responded. “But you must treat every incoming sick person as potential Ebola patient”, I commanded.
He laughed. “God will protect us”, he reassured me.
Talking about protection, I asked whether he has personal protective gears. He responded in the affirmative. Noting the continued anxiety in my voice, Dr. Wai changed the topic quickly to other family matters. I was left with no other choice but to quietly reckon with the idea that for my brother, life has to go on. I must accept the fact that someone has to do it as he had suggested.
The brief exchange with Dr. Wai brought to bear the kinds of selfless sacrifices that our brothers and sisters are making to deliver healthcare services in our country now ravaged by the deadly Ebola virus. The only thing we can do from afar is pray that God protects them.
Fear is clearly the last thing on the minds of these heroes. And it’s refreshing to know that we can count on them.