- Title: Ebola nurse's husband says Liberian hospital, "stigmatized his wife to death"
- Date: 16th March 2017
- Summary: PHOTOGRAPH OF JAMES AND SALOME AT THEIR WEDDING
- Embargoed: 30th March 2017 15:52
- Keywords: Ebola survivors nurse Salome Karwah Monrovia Time Person of the year
- Location: MONROVIA, LIBERIA
- City: MONROVIA, LIBERIA
- Country: Liberia
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA002687L55J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: James Harris was with his wife, Salome Karwah, when she started having convulsions three days after being discharged from hospital following the birth of her fourth child.
He had feared Salome was not ready to go home but his wife insisted because she said the nurses would not touch her nor help her bathe her new-born baby.
"We left by 4 p.m., 5, we left and came home. From that time to 7 pm, that very same day that they discharged her, which was on Monday 20th of February, they discharged her and she started convulsing and foaming. Foam started coming from her mouth, and she was convulsing. Immediately we rushed her back. By 9 p.m., when we got there, the doctor on shift refused," he said.
Salome - named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" in 2014 for her fight against Ebola, worked as a nurse with charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) after herself recovering from the hemorrhagic fever that killed more than 11,300 people and infected some 28,600 as it swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.
Her exposure rendered her immune to the virus so she was able to make direct contact with sick patients that most carers could not.
James says the medics at the hospital were scared to treat his wife and she died of complications around childbirth.
"I have a serious problem with the nurses and the medical that were on shift that night. But even the nurses, even the next day, when we got there, I saw a few of the nurses... they stigmatized my wife to death," he said.
Salome's family wants to sue the hospital for neglect. The hospital has rejected the claim, saying staff had done all they could to save Salome.
Liberian authorities said they are investigating the death.
"Losing Salome at this time is terrifying for us as a family. I have a lot of Ebola survivors in my family, including my brother in law, my sister, my niece, there are a lot of them, so what future do we expect for them? Is this cycle of stigmatization, is it forever? Is this how things are going to go on? I am actually concerned," said Salome's brother, Reginal Karwah.
Adolphus Mawolo, Salome's friend and colleague at MSF set up a website to raise funds for James and his four children, including the healthy new born.
The funding target was 20,000 US dollars in two weeks. He managed to get just over half of that - a sum he hopes will be enough to help them for a few years.
At first, Mawolo said he just wanted to support James, but the more he spoke to survivors and medical experts about Salome and her death he realized a lot of survivors suffer from medical complications, which are being largely ignored.
He now wants to start a wider campaign to raise awareness for thousands of Ebola survivors across West Africa.
"The story of Salome and her family is not a unique story. Today, we are hearing the story of Salome because she was the face, she was the global face and a fighter against Ebola because she featured on Time Magazine and so today we are only hearing about what happened to this family, the tragedy that befell this family, but beyond the story of Salome there are many untold stories of suffering, of stigma, of mistreatment, of stigma against Ebola survivors in our towns and villages," he said.
Traces of Ebola can hide in survivors' bodies long after they have recovered, but health experts say the risk of Ebola re-emerging and being transmitted to others is extremely low.
Despite that, there is a great deal of stigma around survivors of the virus in West Africa.
Salome's family say they hope, at the very least, that her death will change how people deal with Ebola survivors and help raise awareness about their need for support.
"The reason she won an award was not because she recovered and went back to the ETU (Emergency Treatment Unit). She was always there to help patients, she was always there willing to share her story, because with the story of survivor encourage other patients that... yes anybody can survive and she did a lot of sacrifices. Sometimes she would spend like 3-4 hours in the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), taking care of babies. Share on Facebook, share on social network (media), you would see it there: baby, baby. So this time around, a lady who sacrificed her life for her country, to see her coming down and need other people help and they reject her because of stigma, it's very regrettable," said her husband.
Time magazine reported that Salome would "spoon-feed elderly sufferers and rock feverish babies to sleep".
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