11 November 2014
As the Ebola virus continues to destroy lives in Liberia, aid worker Christal da Thong describes how the sudden death of a colleague, Dr Thomas Scotland, and the suffering of his widow, really brought home the horror of the Ebola virus and the pain it causes for those left behind.
Today we went to deliver some emergency supplies — some emergency food and sanitation materials — to a widow and her five children.
This was the widow of Dr Thomas Scotland – he was a doctor who worked at the John F Kennedy Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia.
Treating people with dignity
When ActionAid Liberia first donated survivor packs to survivors at this particular treatment unit, this doctor was the one who received the packages from us. He invited us to the survivors discharge ceremony. He was the one who called on us to give these packs out to survivors on that day.
Just interacting with him in that time, in that short space of time, left a big impression on me. He was very dedicated to his job – to making sure people were treated; and not just treated to survive Ebola, but also treated as humans.
Dr Scotland’s fight with Ebola
I was humbled by his actions and I remember when I heard he had contracted Ebola I was really upset. I was on my way back from Monrovia from a field trip to a county outside Monrovia , and someone posted on Facebook that he had contracted Ebola. I remember calling another colleague of his, Dr. Lavala, just to find out what had happened, and he confirmed that Dr Scotland had contracted Ebola, but that he was going to be treated and they were optimistic he would survive.
About a week later, I spoke to Dr Lavala again, just asking about him, and he said that he was responding well to treatment and that he would be ok. And then two days later he was dead.
I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It just completely knocked me down.
Ebola’s not just taking away lives, it’s affecting those left behind
Over the last few days since Dr Scotland passed away, I have managed to pick myself up again and move passed it. But seeing his widow and his children brought it all back home to me.
I couldn’t even imagine what his wife is going through, to take care of all these children on her own, and to be pregnant with another child. I was completely knocked down again. And as we talked to her, she began to cry.
This just made the horror of this Ebola virus very very real to me. Ebola is wiping out people’s stories. It’s taking away lives. But not just taking away lives, it’s affecting people being left behind. So much pain. So much suffering.
We can’t stop fighting Ebola
I was heartbroken for Dr Scotland’s widow. She’s lost her husband and her family’s source of income. But she’s also lost her friend, she’s lost her partner. She said to me – “it really hurts in the evenings when he’s supposed to be coming home from work”. I didn’t know what to say to her. It was just an emotional time. Very emotional.
We can’t stop fighting Ebola. We don’t want to have more situations like this.
Please help us continue our work to stop the spread of Ebola and support the devestated families left behind. We need your help to do more.