Tonight, I was watching the CNN Headline News. In between stories of the ISIS crisis and NFL scandals, the media managed to find time to revisit the West African Ebola outbreak. The news team was in Liberia at one of the country’s overwhelmed and overcrowded Ebola hospitals. Several patients had been left, half-naked, in the back of ambulances. Too weak to walk into the hospital on their own and with not enough staff to escort them in, they were left for dead.
The camera panned to a small boy- perhaps ten years old- rolling off the back of the ambulance and tottering through the gates of the hospital grounds before collapsing from sheer exhaustion in the dirt. The news crew continued to film as hospital staff and guards somehow found the time to yell at the boy to get up and bring himself inside. They said things like, “If you don’t get up, you don’t get fed,” and “If you want treatment, you will walk.” While the camera continued to roll, I found myself surprised at the unplanned tears that had pooled in my eyes and begun to cloud my vision.
I am not a crier. I come from a stoic Midwestern Irish family who chooses to deflect most emotion through humor. Yet, I found my throat burning from repressed emotion at the sight of that little boy, so desperate for survival, crawling through the dirt towards the doors of a hospital that was most likely too busy to treat him. I thought of my host family in Bo, Sierra Leone and how my host mother didn’t believe Ebola was real until I told her the Peace Corps was pulling us out.
To me, the little boy crawling for his life could just as easily have been my little host brother. His quiet voice telling ME to be safe as I loaded a bus to the airport with my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, leaving him and everyone we had grown to love in that country behind in the middle of the Ebola outbreak. I am not a particularly religious person, but I do have faith. I find myself uttering prayers now and then for the safety of my host brother, the rest of my host family, and all the people who touched my life while I was there.
We, as Americans, take for granted the safety and comforts of our country. We should be proud of them, yes, but we should also remember that not everyone has been as fortunate as we.