I have had my temperature taken several times a day since I arrived in Liberia on March 6th; the reality there. I have never had an abnormal reading. Yet the questions remain. Especially today. There was a voicemail on my “CDC/US Department of Health and Human Services” cellphone from Danielle in San Diego. I returned her call at 5AM San Diego time this morning and invited her to call my US mobile number at her convenience; I assured her I was fine and had not been exposed to ebola. As I was sitting down to lunch with my elderly parents who I have not seen for several months, she called me back. What seemed like an hour later and after my parents had long finished their lunch, I returned to the table with them. I will not tell them of what was happening – stopping more fear before it can begin.
Danielle asked me the same questions – do I have any symptoms, was I ever in contact with a sick person, did I ever touch a dead body, did I ever visit or work in a treatment center or hospital?? I know so much more about ebola than anyone I have spoken with since I left Liberia Monday evening – and I am starting to have a major resentment. Someone will need to visit me physically in addition to speaking with me every day for the next 21 days. Perhaps someone here at the hotel in Geneva, IL – oh what hysteria that would create here in this conservative Midwest community. I pray I can be monitored from San Diego by phone until I am home Friday evening; than an in-person interview on Saturday, after my morning yoga class please was my request to Danielle today.
I do not have ebola, have never had symptoms of ebola, have never been in contact with anyone who has ebola. I am experiencing the same prejudice that the world is extending toward West Africa now. I have become “one of them” – suspect – feared. And the materials given to me upon arriving home in America yesterday only exacerbate the fear – a dark skinned man with tightly cut black hair pictorially demonstrating fever, stomach pain, diarrhea or running stomach, vomiting, bleeding/red eyes, muscle pain, headache, bleeding/bloody nose, feeling weak or tired. And the “How to Use Your Thermometer” flier is demonstrated by a wide-eyed African young boy in shirt and tie.
Us and them. I am now one of “them” – feared here in my own country after 10 years of being connected to Liberia and never questioned until now, not even last August after I agreed to the US State Department’s request for all non-essential Americans to leave Liberia. My heart is broken that fear instead of love is driving the response to this unprecedented crisis in Liberia and connecting countries. Will we ever understand that we are one human family and that love is the only way?
I am never giving up on that dream – and sending love and gratitude to all of you for your caring and support of our beyond fabulous work in the world for two decades now, especially in Liberia…