“The Significance of the Life We Lead”
Surprisingly Aaron is still with us but remains essentially unresponsive, no longer capable of groaning. He has a catheter now for his urinary retention.
Clarence and Gomai are buried today. Clarence’s sister, Oretha who is also in the Confirmed Ward cried loudly when his body was taken away for burial. It was the first time I heard crying. Mostly there has been no wailing or weeping perhaps because the relatives are not around. Clarence’s short burial was attended by a big contingent of families and friends.
The psychosocial priest invoked John 16:33 I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Since the last time I came to the cemetery almost two weeks ago the number of graves has increased to more than eighty. There are only one and a half graves dug, the grave diggers are barely keeping up with the pace of death.
I am winding down my time here and now I am moved back to day shift battling the heat.
How does one get the fortitude and strength to get up every day to go to the ETU to face the gruesome routine of seeing extremely ill patients who are not likely to live through the day, who are in excruciating sufferings and pain, children who look lost and lonely, patients in their final hour of dying and death?
Here in Bong ETU my hours are so long that I have very little downtime to reflect on the happenings of the day. There are times when I am supposed to rest for my night shift, I have found myself lying awake thinking about several patients who are fighting hard to survive, and this is when I begin to feel the profound despondency and the uphill battle of our fight against Ebola and at times found my eyes moistened with tears. When I consider individual patients with whom I have spent time over their care, I feel personally moved by their struggles against the infection and wonder what goes through their minds when they are losing their grip on life, and facing the distinct potential of leaving their loved ones behind and the lives they used to live.
How does one cope with this everyday tragedy in the ETU? In the medical field, we are often taught to distance ourselves from being close to our patients so we will not be personally affected when they are dying and approaching death. But here in Bong it is hard to keep that distance. In the US as an Infectious Disease consultant, one is not directly responsible for the primary care of the patients with whom one is consulting but in Bong, each one of us is caring personally for the patients in the ETU. The longer they are in the ETU, the harder it is to dissociate ourselves from them. So we grieve when we lose them and rejoice when they are free of Ebola.
But most of all I rely on and have the inner peace and strength that derive from a higher power. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31.
To go to the cemetery once in a while and to look over the grave stakes and remember each of the life that was taken help me to have a little perspective on living. Volunteering in the ETU has once again reminded me that our time in this world is transient, that it is fine to live life to the fullest but one should make it count.
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.
It is what difference we have made to the lives of others
That will determine the significance of the life we lead.