Les Roberts – Freetown, Sierra Leone – November 4th, 2014
Day 31: Putting the mean in quarantine
I had breakfast yesterday with a former student from many years ago at Hopkins. He and his wife tried to get pregnant and gave up… and then somehow, years and years later, they had a child when his wife was 48. I think only those of us that wanted kids and did not have them arrive can fully appreciate what a magical thing that would be. He volunteered to come here and work in a UN support role and made an automatic reply e-mail stating he was in Sierra Leone. He did not think much about it when his child’s preschool sent him an announcement inviting him to parents’ night. But, the next day, when his wife dropped off their 3 year-old, she was told that the school director needed to speak to her. The director informed her that their son would have to stay home for 3 weeks after the father returned. He is contemplating spending 3 weeks in Europe, away from his family, away from his job, before going home. I have heard so many stories like that!
Everyone appreciates the effect on clinicians of a 3 week work ban, a ban that has some semblance of logic, given the history of ebola affecting health care workers and the intimate physical nature of some clinician activities. But I think few people consider the other indirect consequences of such measures. A co-worker the evening before said how her main reluctance about coming to Sierra Leone was that her mother was very old and not well, and she feared that her mother might die while she was here. Now, given this hysteria in the US, her Thanksgiving-hosting sister has forbid my colleague from coming to her house for Thanksgiving, even though my colleague scheduled this deployment to end mid-November explicitly, so she could have Thanksgiving with her mom. Think of the rift this might potentially make between those sisters.
The Europeans are very entertained by the American hysteria. The idea that 60% of New-Yorkers support the Governor’s crusade against science and ignore MSF’s perfect record of health care worker self-monitoring speaks poorly of the medical community’s capacity to… empathize? … educate? … believe science?
People in Sierra Leone really like Americans. I just hope they never learn how little Americans care about Sierra Leoneans.