There is a front page story in the New York Times today, “Empty Clinics Are Called a Misstep in Ebola Effort,” which I read with great interest. On September 16, 2014, President Obama announced an expanded US plan to help Liberia. I remember that day distinctly. I was in Kauai watching the announcement on CNN while speaking with His Excellency the Vice President of Liberia. I was telling him of the announcement. The number of new ebola cases in the country peaked the week after the announcement.
La Jolla, CA - It is a very reflective time for me. So many around the globe celebrating a resurrection when our work is about getting all around the globe to realize we are one human family. It is not “us and them” but rather “we” – how to spread that message is the constant question…
I awoke today to find this message in my inbox from dear friend Jan Phillips who said this quote made her think of me.
La Jolla, CA - I have been in touch with Liberia every day since departing last week. Yesterday I received a call from friend Foday, one of TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year when TIME named the Ebola Fighters with that honor last December. Foday is a hero. He tirelessly and constantly drove an ambulance, trying to get sick people to an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU). At the height of the crisis, he often had to take patients back to their homes as there was no space in the ETUs for so many. Foday is also an Ebola survivor.
La Jolla, CA - I have returned to my community in California, though my heart is still in Liberia. I am back in the US to produce a documentary film about the people and country of Liberia and ebola.
And I am being tracked by the CDC and US government. The morning of my first day here on Saturday, a nurse and an epidemiologist came to visit. I was asked to sign a letter acknowledging all the instructions which will govern my behavior until April 13, 2015, 21 days after leaving Liberia. I must take my temperature twice daily, morning and evening, and report the readings daily. I must check for signs and symptoms of illness every day and report any of ten symptoms. I must notify public health services prior to leaving San Diego County for any reason. If I develop any symptoms, I must contact public health services immediately, isolate myself and wait for additional instructions. After several days now, it has become routine and I am grateful that the screening is in place – and I still feel the prejudice of being one of “them.”
Geneva, IL - I awoke early here and sent several emails to Liberia – missing so many people and the country so much after only a few days away… This partial reply from my now dear sister Dr. Angela Benson:
Geneva, IL - My welcome home yesterday included a confused hour-long process by customs and immigration at Dulles Airport in Washington DC. I was the first off the airplane from Brussels, the first to be taken to the holding area for medical screening, the first to be interviewed, the first to be given my “ebola packet” – and the first to be released to continue my travel after the disappearance of my checked luggage claim check and no customs exit documentation; just “She’s OK.” An hour-long process with 71 others behind me waiting to be screened…
Geneva, IL USA - Oh the contrast! I left my home in Liberia yesterday late afternoon and traveled more than 30 hours via Europe to land in Washington DC and then Chicago. I have come to the place of my birth to spend a few days with my biological parents after leaving the place of my true family far behind now in Africa.
When I got off the plane at O’Hare International Airport I could not help but be struck by the contrast to the Roberts International Airport in Liberia – two entirely different worlds. Moving walkways, escalators, plentiful flushing toilets, temperature controlled environment, baggage ready to be claimed by the time I reached the appointed area, order despite thousands of people… Can my two worlds really be on the same planet?
Monrovia - The country is abuzz with the news of the new confirmed ebola case here last Friday, after so many days since the release of the last ebola victim from an ETU, ebola treatment unit, on March 5th. So much hope now dashed and so much wonder as to how this happened when there have been no cases in the country for so many days…
The cartoon in the Daily Observer newspaper today shows an awful character sweating and labeled EBOLA knocking loudly on a door with the Liberian flag. The caption reads, “I didn’t go anywhere! I was in the neighborhood, and you never knew that!!”
Kendeja Resort Monrovia - I just had a very special telephone conversation with my dear sister, Angela Benson. We met this week when I went to visit her and her hospital. We are sisters who just had not met; now we are connected sisters forever. She called to say thank you for last evening…
Something very special happened here at the hotel last evening. For the first time since August 6, 2014, I hosted a special dinner and celebration for about forty Liberian friends. Joy! We ate and toasted and enjoyed – and celebrated the many healthcare workers who were with us, many now ebola survivors. Then we were entertained by my favorite Liberian cultural dance group. Tremendous joy!!
Monrovia - I awoke early this morning but stayed covered and quiet, reviewing and reflecting on my two weeks here now. I am blessed that God urged me to regularly write and document all that has happened here in Liberia since July. I was particularly reviewing my time at Benson Hospital yesterday, thinking of the hundreds of health care workers who continually tried to help those suffering so much… The images of the hospital yesterday haunt me; the faces of those waiting for help, the enthusiasm and pride of the workers despite the most challenging conditions. I can only imagine what it all must have been like in the height of the crisis.
Deborah Lindhom is the Founder and CEO of the Foundation for Women. For over 20 years she has lived and worked in Africa, India and the United States on issues of poverty, education and microcredit.