Ebola: Living in the aftermath

“I contracted Ebola from my mother-in-law who was infected with the virus at a funeral ceremony she attended in Monrovia in July.  The person had died of Ebola but that information wasn’t disclosed by their relatives to the well-wishers who had gathered to pay their last respects. My mother-in-law returned home after the funeral rites and fell sick few days later.  We did not know she contracted Ebola from the funeral so we all cared for her at home. Sadly she died and we buried her in the traditional way.  That was the beginning of our Ebola nightmare.

In less than one week after we buried my mother-in-law, my husband, his father and five of his siblings fell sick.  At that time, hospitals and clinics in the country were closed and we only had one Ebola center operating and they couldn’t admit everyone. So my family slumped helpless in the house just waiting to die. Before then, I had sent my two children, both under 10 years old, to my sister, to be safe with her.  Every day became grimmer - there was no sign of any of the infected people in the house recovering from the virus. Everyone in the neighborhood stayed cleared of our yard.

I was mournful but garnered courage and remained strong.  Caring for all the seven infected people became my sole responsibility.  I bathed and fed each of them, one after another, every day.  That went on for about two weeks before I lost all of them in one day. They died in succession within the space of one hour on the morning of August 10.  That night, I slept in the house among the dead bodies. I tried calling the dead body management team to come and remove the bodies but they did not show up until the following day.

The team came and took the bodies away. And an ambulance came later and drove me to the ELWA3 Ebola management center. There, they took my blood specimen and tested it in the laboratory and the result came back positive.

I was admitted for care and recovered two weeks later and was discharged to go home. I returned home but my family and neighbors denounced me. They didn’t believe I had beaten Ebola.  I showed them a copy of my medical certificate issued by the Ebola center that officially declared me cured of Ebola but they were still not convinced. They telephoned the Ebola call center to inform them that I escaped from the Ebola center.  The call center relayed the information to the Ebola center and a team was dispatched immediately to my house to have me taken back in care. But upon arrival to my house, one of the team members recognized me and told the community that I was discharged from the center the day before.

My life is torn apart. I lost my husband and I have no one to console me. Everyone around me is afraid of me even though I have beaten Ebola. It’s a difficult life to live when friends and family neglect you because of an illness you did not purchase. I’ve been evicted from the family house where my husband and I lived before his death. With no home or sustainable source of income, I struggle to care for my children alone.  Now, I am staying with a friend until I raise some money to rent an apartment where my children and I can move in”.

Hellen Morris is an Ebola survivor in Liberia who lost her husband to Ebola and seven of his family members including his parents in August 2014.