Grieving But Grateful, Ebola Survivors In Liberia Give Back
Harrison Sakilla, a 39-year-old former teacher, can’t stop smiling.
"I have to smile," he says. "I’m the first survivor for the case management center here from Ebola."
Former patients like Sakilla, who’ve recovered from the virus, lift the collective spirit at at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola center in Liberia’s northern town of Foya. He was admitted to the high-risk isolation unit, which is part of a cluster of large tents that make up the bulk of the center.
While health workers busy themselves caring for patients on one side — with all the stress, hard work, death and sorrow that entails – there’s an oasis of joy and relief on the other side, where a few brick buildings stand to the right.
That’s where Ebola survivors congregate.
But their smiles may mask deep sorrow. “I’m very fine, even though I’ve lost seven [family members],” says Sakilla.
He starts to list them: “My father, my mother, my sister, my niece, my big brother and my niece’s daughter,” he says. “But right now I’m alive, I’m very, very, very happy. You see me smiling — nothing but smiling.”
Sakilla and other survivors gather together in their own little center, beyond the pop-up tents. Several are helping Doctors Without Borders, looking after orphaned children and performing other tasks.
Photo: Bendu Borlay, 21 and an Ebola survivor, is caring for an infant whose mother died of the disease. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)