Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Families wait in agony for word on Ebola patients

Published:Wednesday | October 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A Nigerian port health official (left) uses a thermometer to screen an unidentified Ukrainian crew member (right) for Ebola on the deck of a cargo ship at the Apapa port in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday.
Ethel Konneh (left) is consoled by her daughters outside the Island Clinic Ebola isolation and treatment centre after she learned her other daughter, Rose, passed away from Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia.

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP): First the ringtone echoed outside the barbed-wire-topped walls of the Ebola clinic. Then came the wails of grief as news spread that 31-year-old Rose Johnson was dead just days after she was brought here unconscious by relatives.

Soon her mother's sorrow became so unbearable, her body so limp and heavy, that even her two other daughters could no longer help her stand.

There had been no official confirmation of Rose's death from hospital officials, no time for someone to explain her final moments, just word from a family acquaintance inside who said her bed had been cleared that morning to make way for a new patient.

Her grieving husband stood in a daze outside the hospital, scratching airtime top-up cards so he could use his mobile phone to notify other family members.

"I've been here every day, every day, every day," says David Johnson, 31, now left with the couple's 18-month-old daughter Divine. "Up till now there has been no information. How can I believe she is dead?"

As the death toll from Ebola soars, crowded clinics are turning over beds as quickly as patients are dying. This leaves social workers and psychologists struggling to keep pace and notify families, who must wait outside for fear of contagion. Also, under a government decree, all Ebola victims must be cremated, leaving families in unbearable pain with no chance for goodbye, no body to bury.