Ebola Reveals Heroes
December 18, 2014
Professional sports figures generally serve as heroes for only a short time depending on their ability to sustain an extraordinary high level of play and good health. We raise these athletes to hero status because they have done something we and most others cannot. They add value to our sports entertainment lives.
Who are our heroes outside of sports? How many people have achieved hero status in our political, economic, corporate, or government arenas in recent years? Whom do we want our children to look to as role models?
How about the medical staffs treating Ebola patients since last March in the West African countries of Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone?
Over 200 health care professionals have died after contracting Ebola during this recent outbreak. According to the BBC, there are approximately 18,000 reported cases to date and of these 6856 people have died. With no available vaccine, containment of those suffering from or exposed to this disease was the most difficult but necessary and effective treatment.
We have learned of the family, tribal, and cultural customs that often put healthy people into contact with this disease. The middle of an epidemic was not an effective time to initiate a national education program on Ebola. It was running rampant among a population not confident in a government asking them to immediately disregard family and cultural practices for treatment of the sick and burial of the dead.
While others talked and debated, the world medical community responded. Many came from all over the world to West Africa to work with and support an overwhelmed and often ill equipped local medical community. Like you, I really can’t name any of these people. They all look the same wearing their containment suits and goggles.
Not a whole lot of news people wanted to get too close to the red zone so we did not see these medical professionals up close and personal. But they came to West Africa, and they worked under the same conditions and with the same problems as their local counterparts. They put themselves in greater danger working under conditions not up to available medical standards. These people are heroes!
All of this struck home to me one day when the BBC reported an interview with a Liberian nurse. She described how she got up and went to work every day praying to God that she would not bring Ebola home to her own husband and children. She accepted that she must put her own health at risk, that it was her chosen professional duty to be among these sick and dying patients, and that she would continue to honor this duty. She did not pray to God for herself, but for her family. To me this nurse is a hero. She demonstrated great courage in the face death but continued to serve others.
There were nurses from Nigeria who, after Ebola had been contained there, volunteered to serve with the medical staffs in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. They knew all of the problems firsthand, but they chose to serve again. They chose to serve others whose tribal heritage might be different.
Ebola has fallen from the 24 hour news cycle. New cases are dropping, containment has been effective, and there is talk about a possible vaccine by the end of the year. The present threat is diminished. Will the government and political communities start listening to the world health community about the next disease? One doctor when asked how fast Ebola could spread out of West Africa simply stated “as fast as an airplane can fly.” Such is the case with many diseases today. While scary, it needs to be remembered.
But for now, let us offer a prayer of thanks to these Ebola heroes we will never personally know.