Monday, November 17, 2014

Labor of Love: Sierra Leoneans Mourn Dr. Martin Salia

Dr. Martin Salia (RIP)
When,as Sierra Leoneans in USA, we received news that our latest medical doctor infected with the Ebola virus, Dr. Martin Salia, was being flown into Nebraska, USA for treatment, we were besides ourselves with Joy. In a country with very few doctors per unit of the population, the fact that the first five doctors infected with the virus had all lost their lives to the disease after being treated inside the country, had made us think that Dr. Salia's treatment at a world class facility, famous for the treatment of the toughest infections, would lead to a better outcome. Over the weekend, we have been either glued to our TV screens or organizing prayer sessions for him,wishing and praying that he will miraculously pull through.

Unfortunately, it was with the saddest heart I learnt this morning that this wonderful example of human altruism has lost his life to the horrible Ebola plague. Many of us never had the chance to met this man, but we are devastated, as his life history, his faith and his sense of mission was so compelling.

On social media, some Sierra Leoneans are already conjuring up all sorts of conspiracy theories as to why Dr. Salia had to die when all those previously treated at this same facility pulled through. I think it is our responsibility to let our compatriots back home know that from the moment Dr. Salia got here in the United States, he received the best care that medical science could provide, but it was just a little bit too late.

When Dr. Salia came to the United States, his infection was already progressed to a critical level. He had lost his kidney function, was unable to walk and was even barely coherent. 
The Salia Family

He had been sick for some time in Sierra Leone, was misdiagnosed as Ebola negative, and it had taken a full week for another test prompted by his growing illness to reveal that the first test was erroneous, and he was actually afflicted with the Ebola Virus Disease.

Those people who have taken time to study the clinical course of the Ebola infection in considerable detail would know that the first week in which he was misdiagnosed was critical to his eventual recovery, as that was the time when aggressive moves would have been made to either introduce antibodies into his circulatory system through transfusion or the new experimental treatments, and he was kept steadily  rehydrated to counter the emesis and diarrhea that are the body's natural response and weapon used to eliminate or flush the virus from the system. Unfortunately for Dr. Salia, this crucial week was lost due to the false negative test given by one of the Ebola teams in the country and by the time his diagnosis was confirmed it was already a race against time. 

With the moment of his diagnosis and his eventual evacuation to the USA, Dr Salia was already in the advanced stage of the infection and the prayers of the whole country and the best medicine available was unable so save him, such is the virulence of this dreaded disease.

A deeply religious man with a missionary fervor for his work and mission in life, some of us will rate this young man high among the real heroes of this West African Ebola crisis. He left the comfort of his family and possibly a lucrative medical career in the USA to go back home and provide his services to a country and people that he believed needed him most. His own words are a testimony to his love for mankind, his people and his immense sense of altruism. Today as Sierra Leoneans all over the world mourn this brave soul, nobody feels his loss keener than his wife Isatu and their two children here in Maryland, USA

It was very heartbreaking today to hear his son talking about his dad's sacrifice and the faith that had led him pay the ultimate price, as a labor of love to his distressed people far away from the comfort of the United States of America. In a land of corrupt and selfish men, he was a gem of a human being.
Landing in USA

For Sierra Leoneans back, here in the USA, and throughout the global diaspora, this is another irreplaceable loss that will further continue to thaw away at the foundation of our country's fragile health care system. After this crisis we will have a long way to go to build up our country again and the effort of all will be required.

More importantly today however, we have learned that Dr. Salia's family is going to be saddled with the huge medical cost of his evacuation and treatment that will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, as his wife had promised to take the responsibility for his treatment. As Sierra Leoneans here in the USA, I think we have the strength in numbers to come to the assistance of this family and help save them from a future of eventual bankruptcy and poverty. 

New Ebola Center in Sierra Leone
Our government back home can decide to help the family pay for his evacuation and treatment and not leave the burden on this family as soon as the CNN camera lights are turned away. If our government lacks the money, our foreign office can appeal to the generosity of the American people and Obama administration to help cover the cost of Dr. Salia's evacuation and treatment and write it off as part of the larger US war on Ebola. At the end of the day we are all tax payers here in America. If this fails, I believe it is our responsibility, all of us Sierra Leoneans here in the USA to raise funds through our associations and organizations to help relieve this family from this tremendous financial burden in the midst of their great personal tragedy. It is time that we as a people stand up and do what is right for a brother who gave up his comfort and life to care for the least among us.

This time instead of just heaping the blame on someone else let us all unite to help a family in distress. As the Almighty Lord said, "blessed is the hand that giveth, than the one that taketh. Rest In Perfect Peace Dr. Salia.

Sheku Sheriff, USA

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