West Africa: A Family's Struggle Through The Outbreak

This is a story of a family that had contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone. They were transported to the Doctors Without Border Isolated Hospital in Sierra Leone. Then buried by a worker at the hospital.

A map of the early outbreak.
Afua, The boy that created the letter to Vance Coover before being admitted to the hospital. (Daymon Marlowe)

Family Member (Daymon Marlowe)

My name is Afua, and I currently live in a secluded village in Sierra Leone. At the time, my village was not aware of the severity of this mass killer named Ebola. During our time of seclusion, my dad, Akiki, came down with a horrible headache. We did not take this seriously, as men in my family were known to get migraines. However, his illness worsened and he began to throw up constantly. My mom, Tishicomba, was always the one to clean up the bungalow, therefore she volunteered to clean up the vomit. Luckily, the Doctors Without Boarders Isolated Hospital came to check on our village.

They took my father away as soon as they got there. They told me that my dad would be in good hands with their best doctor, Dr. Vance Coover. After they took my dad they asked my mom if she had come in contact with bodily fluids, and obviously she did, so they took her too. They made me stay with a neighbor for the rest of my orphan time. I then watched the people spray my house down with chlorine. After about a month, I got word from Dr. Vance Coover and a burial volunteer named Bacon Bai that my father and mother had passed away. I was devastated, but my sympathy was weighed down with my growing headache.

Doctor Vance Coover, man that tried to save the first admitted at the Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Sierra Leone.

Doctor during local outbreak (Connor Higgins)

My name is Vance Coover, but my friends just call me Van-coover. I was working late one evening at the Doctors Without Borders Isolated Hospital in Sierra Leone, when all of the sudden, I heard one of my colleagues yell “WE GOT SOMETHIN' HERE!” I quickly rushed over the the ambulance and was greeted by men in hazmat suits and other protective gear. I asked if they knew the man's name and it was Akiki. The other doctors said that he had left a wife and children back at his home and an emergency team was quickly dispatched to sanitize the bungalow. The hazmat doctors were walking the man to one of our sixty-four cots when I saw the red and black trail being left by the man that was being escorted. It was only then that I had truly realized what we were dealing with here. It was the Ebola virus, and the infection rate wasn't slowing down at all. We had admitted at least thirty people in just four nights. All of us here at the Doctors Without Borders hospital could tell that this was going to be some of the worst times in our lives.

Only one and a half days later, Akiki had fallen to the devastating Ebola virus. He was the first man that we ourselves lost, and it crushed us like a mighty tiger's paws. I had received as well the man's son, Afua via letters. He said that he thought his mother may be feeling the same way as his father had, and I quickly dispatched a crew to pick her up and try to comfort the family as well as sanitize the home. When the mother, Tishacomba, had arrived at the hospital, we quickly realized that she was far too dehydrated to pull through the infection. She passed away within just a few hours of being there. We decided to wait about a month to sterilize the home. While the sterilization crew was cleaning the home they had decided to bring in Afua just to be safe. When the child arrived we had learned that he had the virus from taking care of his mother. He was also very dehydrated and his case did not look promising. Afua had passed after being at the camp for about four days before. I can't believe that I was unable to save anyone in this poor family.

The man in the front, Bacon Bai, was the man that buried the whole family.

Burial Workers (Brendan Oecshle)

I am Bacon Bai, and I am a burial worker, or better known as “a burial boy”. Everyday, I have to drive for hours in rough terrain to pick up dead victims of the Ebola virus. Not many people would know that the virus itself isn’t the only threat to my life. Every situation I am put in that consists of picking up the dead, I am mobbed by the angry family members who firmly believe they deserve to give their lost loved-one a funeral. Many of them are not educated about the danger of the virus within a dead body. Some even are so uneducated that they believe the Ebola virus isn’t real. The job is rough, but I must carry through as no one else will volunteer.

One day, Dr. Vance Coover reported a dead victim by the name of Akiki. His body was frail and stiff when I got there. His skin was tightened around his bones like a corset. His dilated eyes stared right through me as I bent down to observe the dried blood stream under his nose and neck. The victim was definitely infected with Zebov, the most lethal strand of the Ebola virus. I proceeded to roll the body into a bag, and rolled it onto the one stretcher available. Me and another carried the stretcher back to our muddy vehicle, and started the long trek back to the burial site. Pre-dug graves next to Akiki’s wife and son is already prepared for him back home.

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