Miracles happen

Martin introduces the youngest and oldest survivors of the current Ebola outbreak

Besides all the drama currently taking place in West Africa, miracles sporadically happen right before our eyes. Just like this Ebola epidemic will write history, since last week our Ebola case management centre (CMC) in Foya will probably also appear in history books. We are glad to announce that so far in Foya we discharged both the youngest, and the oldest recovered Ebola patient.

Nessie is – that’s at least what she claims – a proud 100 year old woman. Admittedly, nobody really believes her, not even her 44-year-old grandson, but she most likely has at least exceeded 85 years of age. This is also not at all a bad age, especially for someone who has just survived Ebola. Nessie became (most likely) infected at a mass in church. Many members of her church community have been our patients. Almost all of them have died - and most of them were also much younger than Nessie.

Photo: Martin Zinggl/MSF


The elderly lady with her white eyelashes and sweet-tempered looking eyes has worked all her life in rice fields. She gave birth to five children and only has an estimate idea of how many great-grandchildren she might have. "I must have a few," she says. Nessie has definitely not lost her sense of humour.

Until her stay in the CMC she successfully avoided ever taking any medication in her life. Nessie was found with all Ebola symptoms in her house in the village of Sondor Korlor, near the border with Sierra Leone. She had diarrhoea, fever, nausea, headache and body aches, red eyes and hiccups.

She was brought to the CMC, and for more than two hours she had to endure a trip on roads that do not even deserve a name, only to be received by the doctors shaking their head. No one gave her a glimmer of hope for survival. And now, not even two weeks later, Nessie only complains that she is forced to return home on the back seat of a motorcycle.

Right up until the end of her stay, nobody could convince her that she had been infected with Ebola. "It must have been the flu," she says with a tender smile. However, she is delighted about her certificate of discharge, as it hopefully prevents bad gossip from her neighbours. In these times, Ebola is closely followed by its evil twin brother called stigma. Many Ebola survivors have to cope with it after their recovery.

What an exceptional immune system this woman must have - at least as strong as the one of little Musu, who could leave the Ebola care centre recovered at the remarkable age of just 39 days after she had been taken in as the youngest patient in our CMC - accompanied by her also infected mother.

Photo: Martin Zinggl/MSF


And who could forget our Ebola survivor, Mamadee, a young energetic former patient of eleven years who during all his isolation as an Ebola patient in the CMC felt totally out of place? (You can watch and read his story here)

These three patients belong to the group of the 105 survivors in Foya who so far have managed to escape death. Far too few. This is in contrast to the 216 dead today and that is only in Foya, one of five MSF Ebola care centres in West Africa.