America is just now realizing the need, while the people of West Africa have been burying the dead since March of this year. Way back on Sept 2 Medicines Sans Frontiers called for civilian and military help to combat the relentless evasion of ebola. Almost two months later, after three Americans and one West African National tested positive for ebola on American soil, Americans seem to be getting the message of urgency to address the enemy at it's epicenter; West Africa.
Humanitarian workers have been in West Africa from the very beginning, working among the dusty roads, cutting iv tubing to make straws for the people to drink from, risking their lives while being suspiciously eyed by the villagers who have equated the increase in disease with their protective, alien looking garb and the the spray of their disinfection canisters. It was this suspicion that caused villagers to kill eight health care workers hiding their bodies in the septic systems on Sept 19th.
The temperatures are unbearable, and inside the suits the workers body temps increase dangerously, allowing only limited time to be in contact with the patients. If you were to pass out from the heat, it would be virtually impossible to remove your protective equipment safely.
Samaritan's Purse has been fighting this fight since the very beginning as well. The Samaritan's Purse, an international relief effort based off of Luke 10:30-36, gained media attention when Dr. Kent Brantley overcame the unspeakable infirmity known as ebola and gave all the glory to God.
“As I lay in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness, and I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified,” he said. (Dr. Kent Brantley)
As I dug for information on what was actually happening with the people of West Africa, a similar phrase used among health care worker emerged; "ebola eyes" or "the look". Although it is typical for the eyes to turn red from the leaking of blood from the tiny capillaries, this is not what I am describing. The look is the knowing that the flesh is separating from the soul. This is described as a look of impending doom, the slipping away of the soul and the inevitable succumbing to the enemy. Tewa, a child in Sierra Leone, who lost her father to ebola and subsequently lost her fight had "the look" before she died, said a health care worker who pleaded for help after 5 months of fighting ebola. Nurses tell of caring for mothers that have lost as high as ten children, adjusting intravenous sites that while providing hydration, they are also draining the life source as the bleeding from the site cannot be stopped. A nurse describes desperately trying to get the name of new patient that arrived in an ambulance before she died, (all that was gotten was that she was married). Sorrow can be lifted from the pages as they talk of walking infants and children's bodies to the morgue. Small rays of light such as watching the sun rise, dancing and singing in the ward and the joyous release of an ebola free patient sustain these weary warriors that have given weeks of life away from friends and family. They all speak of watching the "white board" for the names of their patients who have tested positive or passed away. Some days they see the names of their fellow nurses who have tested positive or passed away, a sobering reminder of the invisible, microbial war that is being waged.
As I am writing a call is stirring inside of me, should I answer the call to help the dying? I am a nurse. Can I leave my friends and family? Can I risk my life? My life has been well spent for God and He will direct my path. If I were to contract the illness could I have the faith that Dr. Brantley exhibited facing life or death? If I do not go, am I enabling the enemy to cross the waters of Africa to America, placing my friends and family at risk? These are questions I am sure every health care worker is grappling with. Nurses especially, because that is what we do... we care for others.