Meet Isatu Charm, a 51 year-old Ebola Survivor from Tonkolili District. Prior to contracting Ebola Virus Disease, Charm was a nurse at the Government Hospital, Magburaka. Her story reminds the rest of us that the fight against Ebola continues long after the last patient is discharged from the last treatment center.
Could It Be Headache?
It started as a headache or so she thought. She took Panadol (a pain reliever) twice to relieve her head of the ache. After two days with no improvement in symptoms, she reported herself to the holding center in Magburaka hospital and was isolated. Her blood sample was taken for PCR test.
Charm’s blood sample came back positive for Ebola and on October 26, she was admitted into the Ebola treatment center. By this time, she was already experiencing the early symptoms of headache, vomiting and diarrhea.
At the treatment center, she was treated with pain relievers, folic acid, ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) and other medications. She recalls the psychosocial personnel attached to the Red zone encouraging her to eat and take her drugs as frequently as prescribed because that was a key to survival.
There were three stages of treatment, each with a different ward. Ward 1 was for the severely ill; Ward 2 was for patients who were improving; Ward 3 was the Recovery Ward. It was in the Recovery Ward that she spent her last four days at the Ebola Treatment Center as they awaited confirmation of her PCR test.
Life after Ebola
Many months after being discharged, Charm still complains of general body pains, joint pains and upper eye lid pain.
Even worse than the pain she feels is the stigmatization she had to face back home.
After her discharge from the ETU, she had to stay back for another two weeks because her family rejected her. Despite much persuasion, her family remained adamant. This created a lot of psychological trauma for her. Eventually, the Medical Superintendent in charge of the Magburaka Hospital had to rent an apartment for her to be lodged while the issue is being resolved.
At the time of interview, her family is yet to take her in despite the intervention of the District Medical Officer, the Ministry of Social Welfare, the District Officer and the Council. The Psychosocial Unit was eventually able to locate a distant cousin who lives in Makeni and has agreed to take her in.
Support after Ebola
Charm has gotten substantial support from various agencies and the government. She is grateful for their efforts at
ensuring she had access to medical intervention and relief packages like food, blanket, mattress, clothing etc. In addition, she was provided with Start Up kits from New Harvest Church and FHM, a local NGO to start up her life again.
Her advice to people is that they should adhere to all instructions on how to maintain self-hygiene.
Interview by Imo Chinasa
Imo Chinasa is the head of the AU-Psychosocial/Social Mobilization Pillar in Sierra Leone.
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