The following is based on real events.
When Abdulah walked home that Sunday, he did not know what he brought with him. He thought he only brought home fruit. He thought wrong.
Ballajah had been under quarantine along with the whole surrounding region. The Ebola scare was felt throughout. The air itself was heavier with the silent menace. Men and women were afraid to go out and work, but they would quickly starve if they didn’t.
Abdulah was forced out of his house by his poverty. Today, he was glad for the food he had to bring home. For the first time in a long time he had plenty of food for Seidia and his two children, Fatu and Barnie. They would have a veritable feast tonight.
With a full stomach and a happier outlook, Abdulah slept well that night. As Monday morning approached, his throat began to feel sore. He tried not to worry. The Ebola patients he had heard of looked very sick and he felt fine otherwise. This couldn’t be Ebola. As the day moved forward, he became feverish, very feverish.
Seidia was clearly worried about him. She tried to feed him and give him plenty to drink, but the vomitting started Tuesday. Abdullah was beginning to look very ill. His eyes were sunken and he grew progressively weaker with each passing hour. Seidia strictly warned the children not to tell anyone in Ballajah of the illness. Whether it was Ebola or not, she knew the elders would cut them off from any community support if they knew that Abdulah was sick.
Things worsened. Abdulah developed severe diarrhea and was too weak to make it to the latrine. He soiled himself several times during the night. With no gloves or running water, she had not protection for herself and he needed to be cleaned up. She washed her hands as best she could with some bleach water left by the government in town. She prayed that God would protect them.
The days stretched on. When the bleeding began from Abdulah’s eyes and ears, they knew he had Ebola.
Mariam, a family friend, had come in unanounced and as soon as she saw Abdulah, she ran out and told the elders. Within minutes a small crowd had come to the front door. They angrily questioned Seidia as to why she had not told them of Abdulah’s illness. She tried ot explain, but nothing would pacify the crowd.
From then on, they were outcasts. Everyone gave Seidia and the children a wide berth. Fatu was chased from the market by several village men. Barnie had no playmates any more. Seitia was cursed by the local women whenever she tried to leave her home. She and the children had run out of food. They could only get water from the river at night when everyone in the village was asleep.
Abdulah had fallen unconscious. He had been sick for more than a week. His breathing had become harsh and rattled. Seitia, grief stricken and at her wits end, began to despair. When Abdulah died on Wednesday, she could only sit in a stupor, staring at his lifeless body. He had been sick for about 10 days.
Seidia now faced two dilemmas. Her husband was dead of a disease that was clearly Ebola. She and the children might get sick. Despite this, the more pressing need is for food. Ballajah had become a prison more than a village. No one would help them. No one would even come near them. Seidia did manage to get the elders to call the authorities to pick up Abdulah’s body.
And so the waiting began. One day passed, then two. No one had come to pick up the body. The smell was becoming overwhelming. It felt unloving to throw him in the street, but what was she to do. It took all of her strength to get him out the door. Tired from the effort, she walked into her house and sat on a stool. It was then that she first felt it. She was nauseated.
It came on fast. She quickly began vomiting and she spiked a fever within hours. With Abdulah’s body rotting outside the door, Seidia now was sure she would join him soon. With none of the village to help her, she cared for herself as best she could. She made sure Fatu and Barnie did not touch her or care for her.
The following day, Fatu became feverish as well. As Abdulah’s body spent a fourth day rotting by the house, a feeling of death reigned inside. Seidia instructed Barnie, who was 15 years old, to go into the bush. Maybe he could be spared this sickness. Barnie resisted but Seidia was firm. Barnie was better on his own than with them.
The following morning, men arrived from the government wearing strange white outfits. They took Abdulah’s body and confirmed that both Seidia and Fatu had Ebola. Seidia had hoped for help from the men, maybe medicine or transportation to a hospital. Instead, she watched as the man instructed the villagers not to go near them.
And then the men left.
No one was going to help them.
In a strange irony, Abdulah’s body had protected Fatu and Seidia from the village. Because he was laying next to the doorway, no one would approach the house. Now that he was gone, the unthinkable happened. The villagers covered the windows and sealed the doorway. Their home had gone from a figurative prison to an actual one.
Fatu was scared. She had been scared for two weeks. Mama had taken care of papa when he was sick, and now he had died.
There was a lot to be afraid of.
The days lengthened in the dark, hot, house. Fatu’s throat was inflamed. As the days passed, mama became too weak to care for her any more. The semi-light of the house made daytime dim and night pitch black. She cried all the time. She cried in her dreams. She cried and yet no tears came out. She was so thirsty. She screamed for help, but no one came.
On Sunday, August 10, Fatu awoke in the dim morning light and looked at her mother. The coarse breaths that Fatu had gotten used were now gone. She looked into the vacant eyes of her mother’s body.
For hours she screamed. The agony of the previous weeks now poured out in a stream of inconsolable sadness. The deep sense of abandonment crashed into a river of sound that would not stop coming.
And still, no one came to help her.
Barnie stayed in the bush nearby. He heard Fatu’s scream. He heard all of her screams. He wanted to go to her. He was afraid of dying. He wanted to run. He wanted to stay. He wanted to live, but if living is like this, then he wanted to die.
Fatu screamed on and off for a day. She could be heard moaning the following day. On Tuesday, August 12, 2014, she went silent. Her corpse, along with her mother’s, was not picked up by the authorities. It remains rotting in that grim sealed tomb that used to be their home.
Barnie moved into an abandoned home in Ballajah. After the Sherrif family had been sealed in their home, the villagers fled into the bush. No one wanted to be the next victim of Ebola.
Barnie was left to survive on his own. A 15-year-old orphan, he cries all the time. With resources growing thin around the nation, the odds are not in Barnie’s favor. Even if Ebola doesn’t get him, starvation and exposure probably will. He has some of the skills he needs to survive, but lacks others.
As he sits on the stoop of his ‘new’ house. The bright African sun does not help his grief. The silence of Ballajah oppresses him. Ebola had robbed him of a family, home, a village, and probably his life. He feels his inadequacy to survive this. As he sits, he prays that someone will come and help him. Maybe God will send someone to save him, the last of his family.
Maybe God is sending you.
The story above is a dramatization of a true story. I have taken some liberties, but I felt their story should be told.
The Image Above is courtesy of Ken Harper and is used with permission