Volume 2, Issue 18
December 7, 2007
…freely flowing fear…
I had my lowest point today, occurring unexpectedly, resulting in release of pent of frustration and fear. I’ve never been a leper, and I’ve never been a fugitive, but today I felt like both. As I walked down the dirty, dry road I could sense the fear, the unknown, the what ifs from onlookers. Education regarding Ebola in Nyahuka is greatly lacking. What little people do know has caused panic among many.
The man that works for me told me that people are fearing being close to me because they know I work at the health center and they associate that with Ebola. The three recent deaths of health care staff have only intensified those fears. It is difficult dealing with such a deadly disease and having to cope with the realistic idea that people you know can and have been getting sick, and you could get sick as well. Then there is the occasional paranoia that maybe you are getting sick, like a fugitive on the run constantly trying to hide, you hope that somehow you have dodged Ebola’s grip but still you are always on the lookout, just in case.
The climactic point of contention and frustration came when I arrived home today to find my neighbor, a prominent man in the community and long time friend of the mission, yelling at kids that were playing football (soccer) in front of my house. He was speaking in Lubwisi so I asked the kids what he was saying. None of them would tell me, even though all these kids speak decent English. Finally, I coerced one kid to tell me, and he explained that my neighbor was telling the kids to get away from me and my house, and definitely not to touch me, as they could contract Ebola. My initial reaction was anger, then frustration, then a sense of hopelessness. Here I am a foreigner in a distant land taking care of sick and dying people, and now I am being shunned by the very people I came to help. A truly crushing blow, but there was redemption.
A few minutes later the same neighbor came storming over to my house yelling “(Scott) Will, (Scott) Will, you need to come here.” He was calling me to tell me to get the kids away from my home that were sitting on the grass outside my front door, even though I was inside my home no where near the children, lest they all be infected with Ebola. I was very upset, visibly so. Redemption came though as I talked with my neighbor about his and others’ fears, providing education and facts to him, letting him know that asymptomatic people do not spread Ebola, it is only through contact with people who are symptomatic or by touching a dead body of a patient deceased from Ebola. I don’t think there were any definite resolutions, but he thanked me for providing some facts. During this time of isolating fear by many of the locals, it is hard to be on the recipient end of that fear. I understand many of their fears and concerns, but it is obvious to me that I have to make a very concerted effort to educate people (if they will let me get anywhere near them!).
The highlight of the day was after the daily Epidemic Task Force meeting when the head of the MSF (Doctors Without Borders) group invited Scott, Jennifer, and me to their hotel for a coke. It was really incredible to meet the rest of the MSF-ers and listen to all their unbelievable stories, and rather refreshing too to hear them talk about their families freaking out and how they deal with that….
All in all, things are going well, considering the circumstances. Did I really only graduate in May 2006 from graduate school, and now I am here in Uganda in the middle of an Ebola outbreak? – so surreal. It is impossible to plan my day, as I never know what is going to happen next. Each day bring a series of unexpected, major events. Somehow I just take them as they come and deal with them however I can. Lately chocolate has been my stress relief.
I’ve been reading through Isaiah and have really been encouraged immensely. When I started Isaiah a few weeks ago I was hesitant, as I often get bogged down by the doom and gloom of it, but I felt like I needed to read it again because God had some new message in store for me. How true, He knew what was coming. Now all those verses about fearing not and having strength in God are pretty comforting. I highly encourage you to review Isaiah early 40s chapters. My time here has taught me to face my fears directly head on and tackle them as best I can, knowing full well that God is right behind.
I love you, and miss you, and have been encouraged greatly by you,