To be a missionary or a health care worker who tends to the poor has always required an admirable level of compassion, but now in West Africa it also requires remarkable courage.
An outbreak of the terrifying Ebola virus in several West African nations is putting those who care for its victims at great risk. Some, such as Liberia’s top health official, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, have already paid with their lives.
Others have contracted the disease and are struggling to survive. Two are Americans affiliated with the Boone-based missionary group Samaritan’s Purse.
One of them is Nancy Writebol of Charlotte, North Carolina. Writebol and her husband, David, had been working in Liberia and chose to stay on despite the Ebola threat.
Nancy Writebol, a hygienist, decontaminated those entering and leaving the Ebola care area at the hospital. She is now gravely ill and being treated in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. She is being kept in isolation, and her husband cannot directly comfort her.
Also infected is Dr. Kent Brantly, a 33-year-old medical director for the Ebola care center on the outskirts of Monrovia run by Samaritan’s Purse. Brantly of Fort Worth, Texas, is in serious condition but recognized his symptoms early and has a better chance of surviving. The highly contagious virus has killed nearly 700 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since the outbreak surfaced earlier this year.
In a painful contrast to the compassion and courage showed by Writebol and Brantly, fear of Ebola has panicked some local residents who blame health workers for the spread of the disease. Health workers have been threatened and blocked from entering some villages where infected people are.
Despite the threats of disease, Writebol and Brantly stayed to help. May their good deeds be matched by the good fortune of recovery.