Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Remembering Ebola

Dr. Jennifer Mhyer, doctor-missionary in Uganda, writes about Ebola and advent.

On the 4th of December 2007, we were in this very place, surrounded by epidemic, and without our kids, facing uncertainty and loss. 2020 is not the worst we have seen.

13 years ago Ebola Bundibugyo boiled up in this little pocket of the world. Dr. Jonah was in his first year post-internship, and had been examining and treating patients with Dr. Sessanga, PA Scott Will, and us, all of us lulled by the negative Ebola testing into the assumption this was a particularly bad typhoid epidemic. However, it was a new strain of hemorrhagic virus, requiring a new test, and by the time the CDC announced this discovery Nov. 29, Dr. Jonah was already shivering with fever and depleted with vomiting in Kampala where he had gone to pick his daughter Masika up from school. We put our children and team on small planes on the grass airstrip to evacuate them from the risk of being near us if we also succumbed, and tried to keep on responding to the epidemic as larger organisations arrived to help. Dr. Sessanga also fell ill with Ebola, and Scott went to his home to check on him. On Dec 4th we received the stunning, unbelievable phone call from Jonah's brother: he was dead. Within a day, the toll for Bundibugyo health workers climbed, and five from the hospital died. We buried four of them in a memorial plot at the hospital together, only a few of us attending, the whole district blanketed by fear and grief. Those days were so raw, running on adrenaline, wondering if we would all die.

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