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  • Writer's picturekwankew

The Burial

Patience who was confused yesterday and had one of the highest Ebola titers, died overnight. In the morning I raised the blanket that covered her face. Her eyes were closed and puffy, and blood oozed from her nose. She was laid to rest this afternoon. She was only 19 years old.

The Morgue

Nancy’s sister came for her burial. The burial team carried her body from the morgue to the grave site via a wide dirt path while we took a meandering route through the forest, she carrying the grave stake bearing Nancy’s name. At the cemetery, while standing a distance, she was asked if she wanted to view her body. She gave an imperceptible nod. The double body bags were unzipped to reveal her face just for a brief moment; mouth opened, eyes closed. Her sister quickly and sadly averted her eyes. There was no loud wailing or shedding of tears, just quiet grieving. The highly infectious Ebola does not allow for any touching in her last good-bye.

The Burial Team

The Liberian psychosocial nurse said a short prayer. Then he and Nancy’s sister turned away slowly and retraced their steps towards the ETU.

I watched the burial team lower her body into the grave, the sprayer sprayed the stretcher copiously with chlorine and departed. Efficiently but with reverence the grave digger began filling the grave with dirt. Another body was added to the cemetery.

In the late morning the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, came for a brief visit but avoiding stepping even into the so-called low-risk zone. The whole entourage gave themselves a wide berth and viewed the ETU from about 100 meters away. Will she be given preferential treatment regarding the rules of quarantine?

I rounded twice, over 2 hours in the morning and an hour in the mid-afternoon with the US Public Health Service doctor and PA's who have come here for training. They will be serving the hospital that has been built near the Monrovia Airport to care for expats who come down with Ebola.

Today, Christine the 6-year-old was eating a piece of chicken. She seemed to have turned the corner. The physician assistant picked her up and walked her along the corridor. This afternoon she sat outside in the shade with the two recovering boys. Two more young boys came in last night quite ill and they were both confirmed positive for Ebola.

Bendu’s Ebola test finally became negative after three weeks of being sick; she screamed that she was free from Ebola and danced with abandonment having anticipating such a day for a while.

The ambulance brought in 4 patients at the end of that day, one of them died en route. Watching the cleaners and sprayers do their dangerous job of moving the body, already in rigor mortis, through a tight pick-up used as an ambulance, one could imagine the inherent risk they are exposed to daily through their job. The nationals who choose this line of work have a great deal of courage. Some live away from home because they are being shunned by their own. They are pariahs in their own country.

The Ambulance Crew

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