Tuesday, 13 January 2015 00:00

29 Deaths, 1 Survivor: How Ebola Ravaged Liberian Household

Written by Stephen D. Kollie | All Africa

“Actually, when it started, we had the fear that it was Redemption Hospital. We felt that Redemption Hospital was not treated correctly and they were killing, so we sat in the house with the virus for one week and everything broke loose. We were waiting for Island clinic to open. So we in the house said that we will not go to Redemption until Island clinic can open”, Josephine Dolley, Ebola survivor

Monrovia - Sitting in a white plastic chair in front of her mother’s residence, wearing a sky blue blouse and a moron trouser, Josephine Dolley, 31, recalls that she never imagined that her visit to Monrovia in 2013 would mark the beginning of a lifetime trauma, that has now become difficult to forget.

Mrs. Dolley is the lone survivor of the deadly Ebola virus which struck thirty persons, including her family, friends, other relatives and loved ones in the slum community of New Kru town, Montserrado County that subsequently led to the death of 29 persons who all resided in an eight-bed room house. Prior to the Ebola outbreak, Dolley was working in Nimba County with the Nimba Community College and the Radio station. At the college, she was teaching music while at the same time serving as a producer at Radio Nimba.

In November 2013, she came to New Kru town for a visit, hoping to return, but a few months later Ebola hit the post-war nation in March 2014. The nightmare for Dolley and the twenty nine others who succumbed to Ebola began in August 2014, when her aunt went to a burial in Caldwell, returned a few days later and started to get sick in their house but no one thought it was Ebola.

In an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica, Dolley explained that her Aunt Tete Deasiyou, believed to be in her late 50s denied ever participating in a funeral service or burial when she was asked repeatedly by other members of the house.

Says Mrs. Dolley: “She came from the burial, but when we asked her she denied. She said she never touch or play with a dead body, but she was the first person that got sick. And the first man that died, she was taking care of him. The man was sick for about four years, but when she got in contact with him, his sickness got worse and he died.”

A Household falls ill

When the late Deasiyou fell sick four days after returning from Caldwell, Dolley and her housemates did not believe it was Ebola, but felt instead it was malaria even though she was showing all the signs and symptoms of the virus. One week later, Dolley said, everyone in the house got sick. They started vomiting and toileting persistently and a few hours later, two out of the thirty persons died in the house.

Continued Dolley: “Actually, when it started, we had the fear that it was Redemption Hospital. We felt that Redemption Hospital was not treated correctly and they were killing, so we sat in the house with the virus for one week and everything broke loose. We were waiting for Island clinic to open. So we in the house said that we will not go into Redemption until Island clinic can open.” Tommy Batu, a new tenant in the house where Dolley and the twenty nine others got infected was instrumental in getting the ambulance team to transport Dolley and the rest of the sick people to the Island Clinic Ebola Treatment Unit.

Batu worked at the Island Clinic Ebola Treatment Unit as a member of the dead body management team, but was laid off recently when the ETU decided to reduce staff due to a decline in the number of Ebola cases. He told FrontPageAfrica that it was not an easy task to get the sick at the hospital at the time as many, including Josephine Dolley resisted to enter the ambulance but were forced by community members and health workers.

Criminals Hit Home after household Fell Ill

“At least she (Dolley) was much stronger that day, but for others we had to pull them out of the house to carry them to the treatment center. She was running away, but I think she has a strong blood cell. I was here almost every day and I even called the ambulance to start hauling people from this house,” he told FPA. When Dolley and others were taken at the ETU few days later, criminals burglarized their rooms, doing away with all the items they left behind and scattering few in the hallway, perhaps not having fear of contracting the Ebola virus.

She was admitted at the Island Clinic ETU along with her three children, all boys- Exodus 11, Augustine, 14, and Emmanuel 19 years old and several other housemates. Her husband was taken at the ELWA 2 ETU. Dolley sees her stay inside the ETU as the most terrible moment in her life as she watched her three boys die one after another. When Emanuel died following by Augustine, Dolley still had hope that her youngest son, Exodus would survive because it was just three days left for them to be discharged. But that hope eventfully vanished when Exodus finally surrendered to death.

Said Dolley: “I can remember when Augustine, died that night we were lying down together, then EXODUS said mummy, Augustine gave it oh. Which mean Augustine had died. Three days when they announced that we were going to be discharged, when I finished eating one evening and I told him that I was going to throw the dirt outside; as soon as I turned my back, he dropped on the ground. Even though he had the running stomach, but he was not weak. He was strong and was talking to me normally.”

When Dolley lost her entire family, including her three sons, she became seriously traumatized at the ETU but was however, surrounded by six other kids, some of the house she contracted the virus and others from various counties.

Ebola unites victims

Even though she lost all her children, she became so kind to the six other kids, which led her to stay in the ETU for about two additional months after her discharge just to look after them. After all the children completed their twenty one days observatory periods, they insisted that they wanted to go with Josephine and the hospital authorities allowed them to leave together.

Now, Josephine cares for all six of the children she met at the Ebola Treatment Unit and in fact has plans to send all of them to school this academic year.   “When they discharged me all of them started to cry and they said they wanted to come with me. So the hospital allowed me to bring them with me,” she told FPA.

When she was discharged from the ETU on October 2, 2014, returning back home meant starting life afresh. “I never even knew that I was back because my mind was not set. I started to lose memory and it took time before I started to recall some things because the trauma was too much for me,” she said.

Mrs. Dolley says if Ebola was like a real human, she could combat the virus face to face one day for destroying her family. “Even in my grave I will never forget Ebola. I promise myself if I can see Ebola face to face I will be one of those who will fight and kill it. Because Ebola has brought me back to where I felt I have graduated from,” she lamented.

Despite the tragedy Ebola has brought on the 31 year-old and her entire household, Dolley is relishing a singing career and producing a special album titled ‘No Harm,’ consisting of six tracks which will detail from start to end her experience with Ebola. “When I was at the ETU, I wrote one song that is called “No Harm; the devil can do me no harm”. That is the song I want to use for the title of my album when I have the money to launch it.”

Link to original article from allAfrica

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