Monday, January 12, 2015
Ground Zero ~ Why would you come?
Sunday January 11, 2015 Isaiah 58:10
"And if you give yourself to the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then your light will rise in darkness and
your gloom will become like midday."
Some of our housing at the Samaritans Purse compound in Monrovia, Liberia is right on the beach. Standing on the sand looking out at the crashing waves of the Atlantic you have to remind yourself of the reality of what is happening. Closing my eyes I might think I was back in Huntington Beach, California next door to Westminster where I spent my law enforcement career. It is only when you open your eyes and turn around the reality hits you. Those of you in the U.S can read the recent copy of Time Magazine to read the story of the "Ebola Fighters" and gain a sense of where our team is at work. In fact we are at "ground zero."
Today I had planned to take a run around a portion of the compound and then begin to walk the property talking to our security guards as I met them throughout the large sprawling compound. As I was making my first security assessment of our actual compound the blog sent to me by one of the doctors here came to life. She had been completely in the center of those initial Ebola outbreak days back in the summer and I was now slowly walking toward the two hospitals on our compound. The hospital on the right is for regular patients and is quite busy while just down the road a little further the Ebola Unit sign in bright red letters stands as a warning to all. This is where suspected and confirmed Ebola cases are being treated here in Monrovia, Liberia.
As I walked toward the security entrance to talk to one of our specially trained security guards for the Ebola Unit I felt the hair begin to stand up on the back of my neck. After more than a quarter century of responding to police calls I had never sensed anything like this. It was a beautiful day with a light breeze and although hot and humid no one would ever know what was now just a few yards beyond a cinder block wall. Today I am told two patients are confirmed to have Ebola and eight others are waiting for test results. As we are talking some police officers drive up with lights and siren with a patient in the back of there truck for the regular hospital adjacent but a safe distance from the Ebola unit.
At this mornings staff worship and devotion a Liberian mom shared a prayer request concerning the upcoming question on everyone's mind in Monrovia and beyond..."Should I send my children back to school?" Despite encouraging signs of Ebola cases going down in number a new concern is presented in that people may begin not paying attention to sanitation safety procedures. No one shakes hands, hugs, or touches each other here and before going into any building you wash your hands at a bleach station and dip the bottom of your shoes into bleach before entering. How do you insure that children are not going to share everything they own and eat at school? Most children are staying home...at least for now.
Why did they come?
So why did many fly from various parts of the world to the epicenter of the most deadly disease on the planet while many other medical personnel, aid workers and businesses were fleeing the country?
From the blog of one of our doctors here on our team...
"On July 14th I travelled to Monrovia, Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse International Relief to assist with the response to the Ebola epidemic. I had approximately 10 days notice of the need for me to travel and so had spent that time desperately trying to obtain time off work and gather the necessary essentials for the trip. The neonatal unit at ..................Hospital, where I was working, were kind and granted me 2 weeks of unpaid leave to go. At the time the Ebola epidemic had barely graced the news headlines but I had been following the situation since February/March time due to my interest in infectious diseases. It was very apparent to me during those few months that the epidemic was different from previous epidemics and was evolving on a rapid level. (emphasis mine)
When I was requested to travel to Monrovia I didn’t hesitate to volunteer. I knew it was where God wanted me to be and though this may sound crazy to many, for me it was simple – if I didn’t volunteer, along with the many others who already had and would in the coming months, this epidemic was going to be completely out of control before the world woke up to it. (emphasis mine) I could not sit knowing what was developing, and the level of suffering involved, and not act. Also it was an opportunity to work with a disease that most doctors only get to read about in their careers, an opportunity to gain further understanding of a pathogen I had long had an avid fascination about. So I got on a plane.
I knew before I went the risk I was taking and that medical evacuation in the context of Ebola was, at that time, essentially impossible. I knew if I contracted Ebola whilst working in Liberia I would likely die a painful and lonely death in Liberia. I had no experience of managing Ebola and no formal training in personal protective equipment (PPE) and decontamination measures. I learned on the ground. I was trained by Dr Kent Brantly, Dr John Fankhauser and Dr Debbie Eisenhut, three US physicians who had been working in Liberia long before Ebola ever arrived. They had set up a small isolation facility at the ELWA mission hospital as they were acutely aware Ebola would at some point arrive on their doorstep; at the time there were no treatment facilities in Monrovia. At the end of June Ebola did land on their doorstep and that is where this story really begins."
The Task Ahead
Having said all this I believe my main tasks are going to be driving into town to network with police officials, the United Nations, U.S. Embassy, NCIS, the Emergency Operations Center for all NGO's (Non Governmental Organizations) and others. All for the purpose of maintaining oversight of security on a national and local level to provide the best up to date protection for the many SP staff working in Liberia. We currently have approximately 95 security personnel throughout Liberia with the majority of them here at the Samaritans Purse Monrovia base headquarters.
I would appreciate your prayers that during the networking with police officials that we may see in the future an opportunity to bring U.S police officers to help train and integrate the officers with the needs of the Liberian people through our work with Safe Harbor International. I will try to post some pictures in the coming days of the SP Compound along with portions of Monrovia and its people. I may not be able to pick up children and hug them but I can take lots of pictures. Pray for these children. First that they stay safe and free from further spreading of Ebola and second for the start to the healing of the long term trauma they have gone through losing friends and loved ones.
Jesus says a lot about helping the poor and the afflicted. It is encouraging to see fellow believers willing to demonstrate radical love by pouring themselves out for so many in desperate need of care and protection.