The purpose of this article is to pay a special tribute to my then vibrant and incredible respectful young cousin (Haja) who lost her life on October 31, 2014 to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Her death was followed by the death of her husband who also lost his life to EVD 2 weeks prior to my cousinís death. For purpose of anonymity, family members involved in the care of the deceased will only be identified by their initials.
I felt a pressing need to pay tribute to my young cousin not only for the gracious life she had but to reiterate the rapidly deteriorating situation our fellow Sierra Leoneans are currently facing back home to this dreadful disease.
Haja was only 35 years old when she lost her life to EVD. She is survived by her 2 daughters ages 18 and 15 years and 1 son age 3 years. The circumstances surrounding her death and that of her husband began early October 2014, when her husband became symptomatic with what resembles influenza-like symptoms. His symptoms quickly worsens within a few days from the onset his illness for which he was taken to Connaught Hospital for further evaluation and treatment. While in Connaught Hospital, he was immediately diagnosed with EVD based on his presentation and was placed on quarantine. In order to prevent the spread of the disease, my cousin and her 3 children were also placed on quarantine in their house. Per Sierra Leone government quarantine protocol, a police guard was positioned at my cousinís house to prevent them from leaving the house.
What makes the event of their death worrisome and hard-to-believe was the fact that my cousinís husband received absolutely no medical care while being hospitalized at Connaught Hospital. According to my maternal uncle, my late cousinís husband was never attended to by the hospital doctors, nurses, or any other medical personnel. He never received any medications, respite care, or intravenous access for intravenous fluid hydration-which could have immensely changed the outcome of his illness. He was instead abandoned by the medical personnel who are also afraid of their medical safety. He died 1 week after being admitted in Connaught Hospital and was buried per Sierra Leone government EVD protocol.
While these events are tragically unfolding in Connaught Hospital, my cousin began to exhibit symptoms of EVD while in quarantine. Her symptoms became exponentially worse for which she requested the assistance of the police guard to alert the EVD response team or to allow her to seek medical treatment. According to my maternal uncle, both of these request were declined by the police guard. Realizing what is at stake, my other maternal cousin (M.K.) came to the premises and pleaded with the police guard for his intervention. M.K. request was also declined. According to M.K. my late cousin and her 3 children were only provided with chlorine for sanitation by the Sierra Leone government. There was no food for them to eat nor sufficient water for them to drink while being quarantined. In a desperate move to save the life of my late cousin, M.K. secretly removed her from the quarantine house and took her to an undisclosed location. The Sierra Leone government located her 24 hours later and she was taken to Connaught Hospital where she died within 8 hours.
I took the time to narrate these events based on thorough qualitative research not only to pay my last respect to my late cousin but to inform and to bring awareness of the deteriorating situation associated with the EVD in Sierra Leone. The death of my cousin and her husband have so many unanswered questions: 1) why was her husband abandoned in Connaught Hospital by the medical personnel who are the only people entrusted by the Sierra Leone government to provide care for this disease?, 2) why was food and other basic needs not made available to my late cousin and her 3 children while being quarantined?, 3) why did the police guide declined to alert the Sierra Leone EVD response team?, 4)Why did the police guard refused my cousinís request to seek medical intervention?, and finally,5) where was the police guard when M.K. removed my late cousin from quarantine? In researching the circumstances that led to the death of my cousin and her husband, I asked these probing questions and more however, a clear answer was never provided as most Sierra Leoneans are currently stricken with fear of potential death from this dreadful disease. The deaths leading to the EVD in Sierra Leone are exponentially worsening and interventions that are being put in place to eradicate this disease seems fruitless. Reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the death of my cousin and her husbandshowed a clear indication that protocol geared to the containment and eradication of EVD must be re-evaluated, sensitization about the spread of EVD must be wide spread and lastly, the international community and other stakeholders must increase their assistance to prevent further eradication of Sierra Leoneans by this dreadful disease.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.