Ebola patients in West Africa are isolated as they recover, but the isolation does not stop there. Villages and communities shun the survivors due to the stigma of the disease. Liberia’s Minister of Health and Social Welfare told citizens to stop this behavior because of what the survivors can teach people about the disease.
The behavior in America towards survivors is completely different. Dr. Kent Brantly contracted Ebola in Liberia. He was transported to Emory University in Atlanta, GA, where he made a full recovery. He received the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, but doctors are hesitant to credit the drug. Doctors seek him out now that Ebola is in America because his blood could aid the new patients.
Ebola survivors donated their plasma to Brantly in Liberia. Now Brantly is donating his plasma to Ebola patients in America. His Samaritan’s Purse colleague Dr. Rick Sacra and freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo received Brantly’s blood at Nebraska Medical Center. Nurse Nina Pham received a blood transfusion from Brantly in Dallas after she contracted the disease from Thomas Eric Duncan. Dr. William Schaffner at Vanderbilt University said plasma donation “could help, particularly if this is given early.” From ABC News:
Plasma is a component of blood that contains virus-fighting proteins called antibodies. When someone donates plasma, their blood is drawn into a machine that separates out the plasma and returns the red blood cells to the donor.
Here’s how it works: When confronted with a virus, the immune system creates antibodies to specifically target that virus, kill it and keep it from coming back, he said. Once a person has antibodies, they stay in their blood for life. If the Ebola antibodies found in an Ebola survivor’s blood can be imported into struggling Ebola patient’s body, those antibodies can theoretically help the patient’s immune system fight off the deadly virus.
Korlia Bonarwolo hopes Liberians will listen to Dr. Gwenigale. He survived Ebola, but his community believes he is still sick. He told the BBC a crowd in Monrovia attacked another survivor. The man said “he was thrown to the ground by the crowd and hurt his arm.” Julius Bowe said his family forces him to “eat with separate utensils and use separate dishes.” Drivers refuse customers who survived Ebola.
Bonarwolo set up an Ebola survivors’ group. The group has 100 members who want to educate the public about Ebola. The members even donate their blood to Ebola patients. Members also speak to healthcare workers about their experience in hospitals in an effort to help the workers make life more comfortable for the patients. Some survivors volunteer to be on staff to comfort and patients since they were once in their shoes and know exactly what the patient is experiencing.