| Jan 22, 2015
With the help of Medical Teams International volunteers, several members of the Sackor family in Liberia survived Ebola. But, because few Ebola stories come with completely happy endings, there were losses.
In the end, two of the family’s children died of the horrible disease, which has infected thousands in West Africa. Nonetheless, the Sackor family’s story underscores the need for well-trained, dedicated general community health volunteers who work to educate people about the threat of Ebola. Your generous donations are the fuel that drives that work.
The Sackor family’s story began in October, when 5-year-old Ramsey became sick. His grandmother feared he had Ebola, and she was right. He was the first reported case of the disease in Polay Town, part of Sinoe County. At first, his parents refused to divulge the nature of his condition and didn't seek treatment. Eventually, a Medical Teams community health volunteer named Negba convinced the family to take the boy to a hospital. But it was too late for Ramsey, and he died.
Negba, a Community Health Volunteer in Sinoe County, disinfects his hands. He is responsible for educating people on taking measures to prevent the spread of Ebola.
Even after Ramsey had succumbed to the disease, his family did not explain what actually happened to him. They told no one that their house could still be infected by the disease.
Knowing others in the community were being put in harm’s way by the family’s silence, including the family members themselves, Negba intensified his educational campaign to convince the Sackor family to be quarantined for 21 days. The family eventually acquiesced to Negba’s request.
It was during the quarantine that three of the family members — father Dioxin, his wife and their 10-year-old daughter Joanna — came down with symptoms of Ebola. They called nearby health workers for help. An MTI ambulance evacuated the family, including the family’s 13-month-old baby named Anthony. Thankfully, the baby showed no signs of having been infected.
Under treatment, Dioxin and his wife survived Ebola. However, Joanna wasn’t so lucky, and she later died from the disease. Thirteen-month-old Anthony was the only family member not to have been infected, and Negba’s persistence is likely the reason for that.
The Sackor family, including 13-month-old Anthony, survived Ebola thanks to the help of a Community Health Volunteer. They now take the lead in educating the rest of their community about Ebola prevention.
Having already lost so much, Anthony’s mother called her baby’s survival “miraculous.” She now realizes that listening to Medical Teams’ community health workers was the difference between life and death. While she lost two children to the ravages of Ebola, Anthony’s survival is a blessing, and his life is a sign that there can be hope even among death.
“I am happy to take Anthony in my arms again,” she said. “Thank God for MTI activities in Polay Town, (to) all those who help us to live again. We listened to Negba to still be alive.”
Since returning from the Ebola Treatment Unit, Dioxin is now enforcing “infection prevention control” measures in Polay Town, using what he learned from Medical Teams’ volunteers. He encourages others to wash their hands regularly, and he asks people to seek medical attention early if they're showing signs of Ebola.
Each morning, he makes Clorox water for everyone in the community, so they can safely wash their hands when they come back from the farm or other places.
Your gifts, support and prayers have lifted the Sackor family from a terrible low point and empowered them to help others. Because of your benevolent support, baby Anthony is alive.
- Jamaima Kollie, an MTI field staff member in Liberia, compiled this story of sadness and survival.