Saturday, November 22, 2014

THE EBOLA CHALLENGE: TRUE HEROES IN WEST AFRICA

Dear friend and reader,

Ebola isn't an uplifting story. Yet I want to focus on ebola for the following reasons: 1, the commercial press has backed off of the story but the crisis continues; 2, heroic stories are emerging and I'll point to two of them.

First, the story of a Sierra Leonean surgeon. 


Dr. Martin Saliah is not the first medical professional dead from Ebola. (In fact, he's the sixth medical doctor to die from the disease in Sierra Leone.) 

But he’s one of the most articulate in pronouncing his Christian motives for taking on the job of medical service in West Africa. 

Apparently, Dr. Salia was a surgeon in practice in Maryland. But when he heard of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone he returned to his native land to help. At the time of his infection with Ebola he served as Chief Medical Officer at the Kissy Hospital, a United Methodist Church medical facility in Kissy, Sierra Leone. (Kissy refers to an improverished town in the Freetown metropolitan area.) On the 13th day of his illness he was airlifted to Nebraska and died there.

Though terribly sad, his story is simultaneously very inspirational. The key inspiration elements are his surgical skill and his Christian commitment to use his skill to care for the poor. 

“But why did I choose to do this job?” he’s quoted as saying. “I firmly believed God wanted me to do it.
There was just something inside of me that the people of this part of Freetown needed help.” More details here. 

The United Methodist Bishop of Sierra Leone, John Yambasu, spoke for the church of Sierra Leone and the people of the nation: “We are trying to come to terms with the reality of his death,” said Bishop John K. Yambasu. “We never thought we would be losing one of our head doctors to Ebola.” “He was everything to us.”

Salia's family lives in Maryland. Some family information and announcements of  Salia's memorial service and funeral are available here.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Now to the experience of an American missionary and Ebola survivor. Nancy Writebol served in Liberia, became infected, was evacuated to the U.S. for treatment, and survived. For an uplifting read, I refer you to the linked article. Details about the situation in Monrovia, including the effect on Liberian health workers and on the city itself, are told in a story here to which Kathy Gilbert referred me. 

There must be dozens of stories of courageous heroes in the West African medical emergency of the past few months. They should be researched, written and told. We need to hear them. Heroes such as Salia and Writebol exemplify the best in human behavior and give moral courage to us all. 


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