Ebola: A Family Shattered

Now I have read the New York Time cover story on the trail of Ebola transmittal through one Liberian family twice.  Norimitsu Onishi has done something powerful here: weaving the individual stories of the members of the extended Dour-Doryan family in with a larger meditation on how care for the ill is delivered in poor family-based cultures. If your identity is in and through your family and you live in a place with a very modest health care infrastructure, home is — as Robert Frost famously observed— the place where,  when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

But, now, things are changing in Liberia. Ebola spreads quickly through families living in close quarters. But families are reluctant to deny care and physical comfort to family members. And so the blame game begins and families fracture over who brought the disease to the family and what must be done to drive it out. Interestingly, the families live in denial about Ebola's presence in the household while the neighbors always seem to see it clearly — until their household gets involved, of course.

If the account of five year old Esther Doryan's being driven, at the end of a stick, from the extended family household doesn't make you pause, the accompaning photograph of Esther lying by the side of the road will. (Esther appears dead but, picked up by clinic workers, lives a few more weeks in a treatment facility.)

Can we make home-based, family-based Ebola care safer for family caregivers? What can we learn from Fatu Kekula?



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