First American Aid Worker Dies in Liberian Clinic.
That was the headline that greeted me this morning while I drank my morning cup of coffee. It was the on the front page of every major Sydney newspaper.
“The aid worker had arrived in Liberia in late December to provide relief to those already on the ground. It is not yet clear how he contracted the virus.”
That poor man. I wonder what happens in situations like this with the body? Does he have to be buried/cremated in Liberia? Or can the body be shipped home? His family must be distraught.
The article goes on to say, that “He was the third US healthcare worker to have been treated in the clinic. He is the only US worker so far to have died. Attempts were made to evacuate the worker but all dedicated aircraft were already deployed evacuating other patients. Aid agencies are now reporting a wave of cancellations from US volunteers scheduled to depart for West Africa. One volunteer in Liberia commented she now ‘just wants to get out of there.’”
Another doctor was more explicit.
“We doctors feel the pull. But each of us has reasons to stay back, reasons that get bigger as we age: children, partners, parents, grants. The yellow medical armor may not suffice, even when donned on our shores in the best facilities. And the possibility now exists of quarantine when we return — no “Welcome back, our hero” signs at the airport, but straight to house arrest. Employers are gently pointing out that if we choose to volunteer, that is admirable, but we’re effectively on our own, not covered by our health insurance. If we fall sick in Africa, there is no guarantee of being evacuated, no promise that even our bodies would be flown back. I fear that volunteers who get any fever out there will be quarantined with others who might be infected, waiting on the test. And if it is Ebola, they will be moved to the infected tent — no I.C.U., just confinement. From there, who knows.” New York Times
It must be such a tough decision for people. To want to go to the aid of all those in need and yet have uncertainty about what will happen to you should you fall ill. I’m glad that’s not a choice I have to make.