Posts in Heroes

Ebola Hero: AARON B. JIBBA

January 19th, 2017 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

My name is Aaron B. Jibba and before the Ebola, I was here in Kailahun.  When the camp was established in Kailahun, I had no job and people were dying.  I applied for a job at the camp and was employed as a hygienist.  When my elder brother whose house I was staying at heard about this, he drove me out of the house saying that he has his children and wife there and did not want me to bring the virus home and end up infecting and killing them.

I was so discouraged that I wanted to quit the job but I decided to continue with the belief that if God said I would die there, then so be it, and if he said I would make it through, then I would thank him after all.  I continued, in part because I knew I was doing something to help my country to get rid of the virus.  At that time, it was not so much about money.  We did not even know what they were going to be paying us.  Whenever we asked how much they intended to pay us, they would tell us to forget about money for now, and that whatever amount they gave us, even if it were a hundred million it would not measure up with the worth of our own lives and those of our people. Therefore, we were told that we should first of all try to concentrate on the job.  We went right to work, and I saw and experienced a lot of very emotional events.

After a while, I was selected along with others to go and train people who were to be employed as hygienists at the Magburuka treatment center.  The expatriates told us that if they tried to go alone, the people out there would be scared to come on board.  But, if we went with them, we would be a motivating factor particularly  if we told them that we were the ones that worked at the Kailahun camp and drove the virus out of our own district. Thus, we went and carried out the training for two months.  When the Magburuka team was finally selected and got used to the work, we were brought back here to continue our work.

As for the community people, they were our biggest challenge.  They discriminated against us so much that it took a lot of courage on our part to continue.  For instance, many of us got driven out of the houses where we lived.  Sometimes we would go to buy food and other stuff and people would not sell to us as they did not even want to touch the money that we carried.  They believed that everything we touched could be a carrier of the virus.  One example, was at the coffee shop “Ataya Base,” where I usually spent time before the outbreak and the people there were aware that I was working at the center.  At first, whenever I went there, they would not drive me away but as soon as I got up from the seat, they would immediately spray there with chlorine.  I decided to stop going there as I myself did want to be having contact with people because I knew I was better protected than those who were not engaged in any form of Ebola related work.

The most powerful memory of the Ebola outbreak is about one pregnant woman who was brought to the center.  Her pregnancy was seven months along.  Before getting infected with Ebola, she had previously gotten another illness that required surgery.  During her surgery, I was invited to the facility to be spraying the doctors with chlorine as they carried out the operation.  Unfortunately, she lost her life and that of the baby in the process.  It was not just the fact that she lost her life that was so heart breaking, it was the way she struggled as she was dying.  After that operation, I was really down-spirited for the rest of that week.

By and large, we received some training in stress management and I attended some self-care sessions that helped us to cope with the stresses. Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) brought psychiatrists and therapists who took us through sessions. It was really timely and useful as at that time we were having frequent nightmares about the things we saw in the field.

Finally, I thank God and feel very proud to have been part of this life-saving work that has made me a national hero.

Ebola Hero: Osman Mansaray

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

My name is Osman Mansaray. Before the outbreak, I was a private driver in Freetown. I became a member of the burial team in July 2014 as a driver, and I joined the very first burial team that was set up by the government known as team1. So am still attached to this team.

My very first day starting work was and is still the most memorable one. We had three corpses already in the vehicle and had gone collect the fourth which happened to be at Kissy brook. Unfortunately, this corpse had taken about three days in the house and the neighbors and family members were furious about that. As a result, when we arrived to pick up the corpse, they were so angry that they violently attacked us: they pelted us with stones and other missiles which physically wounded some of our members. We had to be rescued by some police personnel led by AIG Memuna who accompanied us to cemetery and she and her team became our official escort throughout the intervention

Another powerful moment for me was the time when my wife gave birth to our baby. Because I was a member of the burial team, nobody ever touched the baby or even go close to the lactating mother, all for fear of not contacting the virus through. This stigmatization and isolation discouraged my wife so much that she wanted to leave the compound. I had to continue talking to her to stay calm and have faith in GOD and in the fact that we are doing nothing wrong. So we had a lot of intimidation both in the field and in our respective homes.

Moreover, some of the main lessons that I learned during this work, are that the best way to serve humanity in such daring situations is by being steadfast and resilient

Finally, my own hope for the future is that of prayer: am praying that the government does something for us after such a risky service to our country so that it would not be a shame on us in our communities

Ebola Hero: Nematu Sesay

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

My life before the 117 was studying at Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone). While in my third year I was requited as hotline operator during the Ebola crisis in my country (Sierra Leone). I was just a student without a job or anything besides academic activity. Initially, I was serving as a hotline operator, receiving calls from the public with detailed information regarding the person(s) that is either sick or dead. If the caller(s) is staying with the sick or corpse in the same household I would advise him not to have any contact with the person regardless of the relationship, because he or she too would get infected. I have to ensure that details including address, phone number, location of the community, age, sex, names/contacts of immediately family members and stakeholders are also collected. Thereafter, I logged this information into the computer system and I sent it to the dispatchers who then sent the message to the response teams, who would send vehicles to collect the person and send them to the Treatment Centers. I was later transferred to the callback unit where I was charged with the responsibility of calling all those that have contacted 117 before to confirm if their needs are addressed.

The best lesson I’ve learnt is to patient with people, because there are some annoying callers that call just to abuse/insult us, some callers do not understand what 117 is exactly doing, some still believes that we collect the corpse or sick persons, which is not true at all. There are also prank calls that interrupt our job but we need to exercise patience with them. The most powerful moment of my experience I had was while working with 117 when my sister’s husband, a doctor (the head of the hospital), was infected with the Ebola Virus in one of the hospitals called the “Stick” in the outcast (Waterloo) of Freetown. I was the person that directly received the call to collect a Doctor that is sick, and I was too shocked after receiving that call. I was stressed and confused for the rest of the day, but I later sum-up courage to inform my boss about the incident and she was able to help with Ambulance to collect the patient. This is the saddest moment/experience I’ve ever had in my work with 117.

My hope is to see Ebola come to an end and to see Sierra Leoneans living a stable life after this Ebola crisis.

Ebola Hero: Musa Kargbo

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

My name is Musa Kargbo, actually the coming of Ebola put a great challenge to my life. I was a student before the outbreak trying to pursue my education but unfortunately the Ebola epidemic put a halt into it. So as a result I decided to give myself as a volunteer in the fight against Ebola, and my role was a hygienist—someone who is responsible for cleaning up the patient. The work I was doing involves a lot of risks because I was responsible for cleaning up urine, throw ups and other waste of the patients, so I was working in the red zone. My hope for the future is to become a lawyer. The best lesson I learnt from my work is that Ebola is real and it is a fast killer disease; and I am praying for God to eradicate this infection.

Ebola Hero: Mohamed Kanu

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

I studied Information Technology and graduated from Njala University College. Before the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, I was doing some private business as Data Processing Information Technology specialist. I was working with various companies and organization that required my professional services. To be precise I started working with 117 since the first “lockdown” (barricade) we had on the 19th, September, 2014. I underwent a training that was facilitated by LDTS group, and after the training I was chosen as a supervisor. But I later ignored the supervision position and became a dispatcher in practice; because the dispatch unit was under serious pressure and requires my assistance. This was the most difficult unite I worked with. It requires a lot of referrals and follow-up activities to ensure that the reported cases are adequately addressed. I was supposed to work on a single shift (7:00am – 2:00pm), but due to the countless number calls and frightening figures of confirm cases of Ebola that we were recording, I decided to work on a double shift without asking for any extra reward.

In as much as I was working with the dispatch unite, I learnt from Emelis Kanjah, (a foreigner from the United States) who was so compassionate to the crying of Sierra Leoneans and her willingness to help us motivated me as well go extra mile in this fight. In essence, one should learn to create a safe space for people that are in need of help – particular those that are vulnerable and destitute. I’ve got the inclination that any sacrifice made by a citizen is important to the development of his/her nation particularly in a crisis like this – regardless of being poor or rich.

The most powerful moment experience I had while working with 117 is that I’ve got wealth of trainings and experiences in data processing and management which have impacted my professional development as an IT person. Prior to this time I was basically focused on Hardware Maintenance. But with the creation of the callback unite, which specifically monitor the entire response process, be it burial team or surveillance team, to know if these unites are working accordingly. I’ve got a lot of skills since I was chosen to head this unite. My hope for the future is that by God’s Grace we’ll be able to achieve the 42 days of no confirm Ebola cases as soon as possible. Further I would like the government of Sierra Leone to maintain the 117 for other emergency cases to help vulnerable people (like pregnant women, girls that face abuses out there). These people are currently calling and reporting their cases, unfortunately we cannot do much as the Ebola is our focus.

Ebola Hero: Massah Julliana Steven

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes 2 comments

My name is Massah Julliana Steven, and I am a trained and qualify SCCHL. So before the Ebola I was working as a nurse in one PHU where I was dealing with pregnant and lactating mothers, children and also minor cases like malaria and fever. As a volunteer, when the outbreak occurred I applied as a volunteer nurse under Red Cross; we were trained by WHO and sent to Kenema Treatment Center, forty- eight of us were trained by WHO but only six of us agreed to go as part of the force to fight against the disease. When I was traveling to Kenema for the work my husband told me not to return again into the house, and my children were almost driven away by the land lord. In Kenema Treatment Center there were only twelve nurses and one doctor which was not sufficient to handle/care for the amount of patients.

After a few months of work at the center, I was promoted as a staff welfare nurse who is responsible for the welfare of nurses in the treatment center. In executing this role I got infected with the virus from one of my nurses; I almost lost my life. The most powerful moment for me is the lack of government attention on us the nurses that started the fight in July 2014 in Kailahun and Kenema.

After recovering from the disease; I realized that all my properties have been burnt which is worth more than ten million Leones. I was only compensated with five million Leones. But I still didn’t give up my ambition to be part of the force against Ebola, so I continued my work as a nurse at Hasting treatment center quarantine home. My most bitter experience that I have ever had is when I contracted the disease, I was neglected by the government. The lesson I learnt is barrier nursing—that is how to take care of yourself and others. My hope is for the government to consider me by providing me with the nursing pin code.

Ebola Hero: Manso Bangura

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

My name is Manso Bangura, and I am a carpenter. With this carpentry skill, I had been able to take care of my family. During the Ebola outbreak, there was a sharp decline in income through carpentry and I had a family to run. Therefore, I was looking for other alternative work to secure a better livelihood. At the height of the Ebola epidemic, I enrolled as a cemetery worker at the Pa Loko cemetery Waterloo. Initially, I was a volunteer until later when I was incorporated as a full staff of the cemetery. My work is with the body bag and coffin division in the cemetery. We are responsible to bag corpses and prepare coffin burials.

Based on the fact that this was the first time I worked in a cemetery, I had learnt several lessons. I have learnt the methods of digging graves for the members of the two main religions- Christians and Muslims. For the Muslims, the grave is prepared by deck, there is a shallow depth like a room and this is known as Alwala. Sticks and mats or grass are used to cover the corpse before turning the soil. Sticks and mats or grass are also used to cover the corpse before turning the soil for Christian corpses.

One of my most powerful experiences in working as a cemetery worker was when a corpse that had been buried for about seven days was exhumed for post mortem. It was really pathetic, and I felt really bad.

Despite the challenges that I had faced in working as a response worker, for instance, I could remember when I started working at the cemetery, people were afraid to talk to me, they couldn’t even trade food stuffs with me – yet I worked hard to fight against Ebola. So, I am hopeful that Government will recognise the sacrifices we have made, and our efforts will be appreciated.

Ebola Hero: Magdalene Fornah

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

I am Magdalene Fornah. I trained as a Nurse at the 34 Military Hospital during the war and I later worked at the Emergency Hospital for seven and a half years. I was transferred to the Cannaught Hospital working directly with the Medical Observation Department at the Outpatient Unit. Before Ebola I was working on three shifts but presently with the appointment of a new head I have been transferred permanently to early to help with administrative matters.

During the Ebola crisis, I was working at the Outpatient Department where we received both suspected and confirmed cases. As the head, I ensured that these suspected cases are transferred to the Isolation Unit to avoid spread of the disease to other patients – as we await the swap/test result before finally sending the patients to Treatment/Holding Center(s). I personally sacrificed my life and everything in order to see that Ebola is DEFEATED. There came a time during the Ebola crisis when a good number of nurses stopped working because the infection rate was getting greater and more medical personals were contacting the virus due to lack of knowledge/experience and poor equipment in dealing with patients.

The greatest lesson I learnt during this crisis is prevention. Prior to this time I interacted with patients greatly but with Ebola it is a different situation; no matter how severe/emergency the case is I need to prevent myself fully before attending to patients. That is the best lesson I’ve learnt so far. The most powerful experience I had during this crisis is when I got infected with the virus and confirmed positive, it was a very dishearten news to me, but as a Christian I believe that God would see me through in as much as I was rending a National service; and here I’m today healthy and working as usual.

My hope for the future is that, I want to see more improvement in the medical sector. There are so many things that are missing in the health setting and particularly the Outpatient Department. I would like to see apparatus that would help Doctors and Nurses to help diagnoses patients easily. That is my greatest hope.

Ebola Hero: Edwin J.S. Yambasu

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

Firstly, I am Edwin J.S Musa Yambasu, I am working at M.S.F Spain. I am a health promoter which means someone in charge of information dissemination to the community as well as the health center.

Before Ebola my life was better compared to now because I was a mining engineering student as well as working as a human right activist, and I still remain to be a human rights activist. But the coming of Ebola had made things/activities that I was engaged in begin to decline and become obstructed, so to me the days of Ebola were very disturbing. As I told you earlier, I am a health promoter; health promoters are people who sensitize the public about what Ebola entails and how they can manage themselves from it infection.

One of those skills which we don’t only do at the ETC is that we normally engage people in their communities and pass the information to them. Through these techniques they are better positioned regarding the disease; it is not only for Ebola but for all other infections—how to stay safe. We as health promoters also interact with the patients by encouraging them, and telling them what to do and not to do so that they can get away from the infection. Again, when a patient survives the disease it is us, the health promoters, that will take her or him to the community and sensitize the community about stigmatization.

As I told you earlier, I am an activist. We always cry to the government that we need experts but for me, the course of the six month to eight month interaction that I got with experts, I have learnt a lot of lessons. Such a lesson is health promotion. I have looked at it that the health promotion should fit in our health settings in the country because the doctor is only responsible to administer drugs to the patients.  All other things linking up the patient to the base line are not provided by the doctor—this should be put under the health promotion unit of each medical center so that they can coordinate it very well. So I have learnt a lot.

Regarding that, I thought it fit that I should just not keep this knowledge to myself so I established an NGO which is called Action for Protection and Empowerment which aims to promote health and to see that the health behavior could become good in the country.

It is powerful when I see people surviving the disease, especially someone whom I think will not survive, but through my talking with the individual, her/his resilient power to survive increases.

Also, just like what I said about the expert knowledge that I have received, I will strongly challenge the people of Sierra Leone that as far as health promotion is concerned I have the expert knowledge. So as a result I am using the knowledge and skills gained through my NGO which is fully registered. So I believe this will surely help the country if it became materialized, so these are the most powerful experience or moment that I have acquired. The hope that I have for the future is so eminent/great, very superb.

Ebola Hero: Brima Idriss

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Heroes No Comment yet

Life was very normal with me before the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, as a student studying at Fourah Bay College – University of Sierra Leone. I was happy moving around freely without any restriction or state of health emergency. First and foremost, for the past year and a half now since the Ebola Virus reaches Sierra Leone it was very disheartening for me. But I feel responsible to help my country. With the quest of helping my country I decided to work with the 117 hotline. Initially the 117 hotline was for pregnant women and lactating mothers, but after the outbreak of the Ebola Virus it was expanded to everyone in the country in order to help contain the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country. My primary responsibility was to receive calls from the public relating to Ebola with detailed information (i.e. the name of the person, address, phone contacts of family members, sex, age, location of the community and many others) about the person that is either sick or dead. Once I received this data I sent them directly to the dispatch unit where necessary measure would be taken to help the caller(s) by sending this information to the command center. I also gave precautionary measures to the callers – that is, not touch, wash or burial the dead or have any physical contact with the patient(s).

I learnt both negative and positive lessons; the positive lesson is that we need to have the willingness to help ourselves, particularly the vulnerable people in our communities. I was working on a very small salary, considering the distance I was covering and the time spent on the job. The negative lesson I learnt is that people were ignorant about our work as hotline operators. Some people were calling just to accuse, insult or abuse our parents based on the perception that we are “eating Ebola money’’; that was so frustrating and discouraging to me, as it built negative portrayals of our work.

The experience I had is when my boss, who has since left, was the head of the callback unit. She built a software which we used to trace all calls that came in during the day. She motivated me to work very hard, as she was given her best to make sure that this epidemic comes to an end in Sierra Leone. I learnt a lot from my bosses, and they impacted my knowledge base. That is something that would never be taken away from me and I’m grateful to all my bosses. My hope for the future as a young person is to see that this epidemic comes to an end, and I want to see that the post Ebola recovery programs would greatly consider those children (Ebola orphans) that are directly affected by this crisis. I know the absence of their parents is everlasting but if they are enrolled in schools and educated that it would help them to become responsible citizens. In terms of my personal value, I’m a very ambitious person I want to learn more and get a better job, but that would only be possible if Sierra Leone is declared Ebola free.