Several weeks ago, a five-year-old boy with a high fever sought help at the SOS Medical Centre in Monrovia, Liberia. Klubo Mulbah, a Physician's Assistant, was one of the medical staff who helped care for him.
“I was called up to the children’s ward to help out with this sick child. As we tried to administer IV (intravenous drip feed), we could not find any veins on the boy. Before we could know what was wrong, the child started vomiting blood, and later died,” says Klubo. The tragic death of the five-year-old was caused by Ebola, which has now claimed the lives of over 3,800 people in West Africa.
The terrifying diagnosis of Ebola
For Klubo Mulbah, what followed the child's death was her own traumatising sickness: “After that incident, I came down with fever, and distanced myself from my husband and children. Later, I turned myself in for testing. When my results first came out, it was negative for Ebola, but I was still sick. So, I waited for some days and when I did the test again, I found out I had the Ebola virus.”
A diagnosis of Ebola is terrifying, with no widely available or approved treatment. The current fatality rate of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is around 70%, according to WHO. Those admitted to hospital have only a slightly better chance of survival, with a fatality rate of around 64%.
Once a patient is suspected of having Ebola at the SOS Medical Centre, the Liberian Ministry of Health is contacted, who then transport the patient to a dedicated Ebola Treatment Unit. This is what happened to Klubo, who received two weeks of supportive care at the facility, including treatment for rehydration and her symptoms.
Before being admitted to the Ebola facility, Klubo told her friend, an SOS Nurse, "I will survive to come back and continue to treat my patients". Her friend noticed that, "in the midst of Klubo's illness, her major concern was her patients' care".
A happy ending
Unlike many others, Klubo's story has a happy ending, and she has now been cleared of the Ebola virus. After being discharged, Klubo rejoined her family - who were overjoyed with relief that Klubo survived. Her friend said, "We are all so filled with joy".
Despite her ordeal, Klubo is keen to return to the SOS Medical Centre so she can care for patients once again. "My patients keep calling me. I will rest and be back," said Klubo. Through her profession, she wants to reach out and save as many lives as possible.
Recently, the SOS Medical Centre had to close for nine-days following the death of a nurse from Ebola, during which time the entire facility was fumigated. Staff returned to work as soon as the centre re-opened, and is now open 24 hours a day. Staff at the SOS Medical Centre in Monrovia are treating over 50 patients a day, displaying resilience, dedication and courage. All medical workers wear protective clothing, and follow strict guidelines to reduce the risk of infection.
Mr Richard Pichler, the CEO of SOS Children's Villages International, commented,
"I am humbled by the resilience of our colleagues in these countries. Our teams on the ground are coping admirably under intense pressure. They are doing phenomenal work to continue providing a high quality of care for children and to combat the spread of the virus."
Support for children at risk
Mr Pichler also spoke about the damaging impact of Ebola on children, and what we are doing to help those in need.
"As the Ebola epidemic continues to grip West Africa, we are seeing increasing numbers of children who are left without parental care. The terrible economic, social and psychological effects of this outbreak will continue for years, and we have to be prepared for the fact that even more children will be orphaned and more parents will struggle to provide a stable environment in which their children can grow up.
In response to this tragic epidemic, SOS Children’s Villages is focusing its efforts on supporting children who have lost or are at risk of losing parental care, and we will be sending further support to those programmes on the ground so that they can respond to the growing needs of vulnerable children. We are calling on all governments and stakeholders to place children at the top of the agenda, taking into account that this epidemic will leave emotional scars to be borne by future generations."
Thousands of children orphaned by Ebola are particularly vulnerable, as many are shunned and stigmatised by their extended families, leaving them with no-one. SOS Children has offered to help care for 165 orphans in Sierra Leone, ensuring they have essential supplies in the short term, and in the longer term making sure they grow up in a loving home.
We have cared for vulnerable children in Guinea since 1989, in Liberia since 1981, and in Sierra Leone since 1974. Our long-term presence means that we are well placed to respond to the emergency situation created by Ebola.
Will you sponsor a child in West Africa, and give them quality healthcare for their entire childhood?