Liberia’s First Ebola Survivor

julio 22, 2014 • Liberia
Liberia's first Ebola survivor, Harrison Sakela, poses with Dr. Lance Plyler of Samaritan's Purse. Harrison is grateful to be alive.

Samaritan's Purse staff members are helping to save lives in Liberia’s Ebola outbreak

Samaritan’s Purse Community Health staff Joseph Mbokar and Taryee Walawu were caring for members of their African community when they realized that a local man was seriously sick.

Harrison Sakela had traveled to Sierra Leone to attend his mother’s funeral. She had passed away unexpectedly the week before. As is custom in the area, Harrison touched the body in preparation, not knowing that Ebola was the cause of her death.

Two more survivors emerge from our Foya facility in Liberia.

Two more survivors emerge from our Foya facility in Liberia.

The deadly disease causes massive internal bleeding and generally has a mortality rate of 60 to 90 percent. This outbreak has affected three West African countries—Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia— claiming more than 600 lives in the process. Though cases have declined in Guinea, the epidemic remains on the upswing in the other two nations.

When Harrison returned home after the funeral, he fell seriously ill three days later.

“I first had a headache…and then my whole body was warm. But the worst was the weakness that came,” he said. “You have no strength to even walk.”

Joseph and Taryee visited him, and upon identifying the symptoms of Ebola, they encouraged him to go to the Foya Case Management Center. (When Harrison was treated, Samaritan’s Purse was providing support to the center in anticipation of the transition from Doctors Without Borders. The official handover to Samaritan’s Purse occurred on July 8.)

“I felt that we have played our part and the rest was in the hands of God,” Joseph said. “We prayed and committed him to God for his healing.”

Because Harrison went to the clinic at the onset of his symptoms, he is Liberia’s first Ebola survivor. Ebola has no cure, but when it is detected early and patients are given effective supportive care (rest, fluids, etc), fatality rates can decrease from 90 percent to between 30-40 percent. However, many villagers still live in fear of the disease or even in complete denial that it actually exists.

“They call me the Ebola Ambassador. I am the first one to be tested positive, and now tested negative,” said Harrison, who now works as a security guard at the Foya center. “I thank God for the Samaritan’s Purse staff for sharing the information with me, and encouraging me to go to the health center.”

In addition to medical care, Samaritan’s Purse has been leading an awareness campaign to stop the spread of the disease and encourage people to seek treatment. More than 430,000 people have been reached by this effort.

Since Harrison’s recovery, there have been 27 survivors from our case managements centers at Foya and at ELWA Hospital in Monrovia.

Nonetheless, the disease continues to spread, claiming the lives of both children and adults alike. Please continue to pray for our staff as we battle this outbreak and help show the love of Jesus to those who are suffering.