When Caring Kills
Almost as soon as they got to Sierra Leone, epidemiologists Michelle Dynes and Anne Purfield saw Ebola do its worst: killing 20 nurses and a beloved doctor, wiping out entire families and making one orphan after another.
They struggled to hold themselves back from hugging people who’d lost as many as 10 family members, and cried for the five children buried in unmarked graves because they died before anyone could find out their names.
But the worst part was seeing how mercilessly Ebola punished anyone who cared. It’s turned Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea into countries where the enemy is the person next to you, where hospitals are feared as the most dangerous places you could go.
“There was a woman who had come into the treatment center with her infant,” said Dynes, who with Purfield first told the story on NPR’s Story Corps. The young mother died, but her baby, still young enough to be breast-feeding, tested negative for the virus.
“But we know that baby’s risk of becoming Ebola positive was very high, from contact with the mother and breast-feeding. The nurses decided they would keep the baby in the nurses’ area so they could watch over the baby instead of putting the baby in the Ebola ward.”