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Orange Drink and a Door

October 6, 2014

Today I watched another press conference about an American being treated for Ebola back here in the US. During the press conference, the head of the nursing team (at the hospital in Nebraska where he’s receiving treatment) said that he’s being cared for by forty health professionals who all eagerly volunteered to help.

I burst into tears.

FORTY people gathered around him, monitoring his every moment – supporting in every way possible while he fights for his life.

I cried because I thought about this girl – and how all she had was a sidewalk and an orange drink.

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“The girl in the pink shirt lay motionless on a sidewalk, flat on her stomach, an orange drink next to her, unfinished…The girl’s mother had died, almost certainly of Ebola. So had three other relatives. The girl herself was sick. The girl’s aunt, unable to get help, had left her on the sidewalk in despair.”

And here’s the thing – the relative who left her on the sidewalk with just an orange drink – she did the RIGHT thing, the thing that every Liberian is being advised to do. NOT have contact with sick people, not catch and spread Ebola. That was her BEST option. To give that drink. To leave her there.

I lived in Liberia and I know these people, dying on sidewalks and outside of treatment centers, unable to get a bed. I’m not blaming anyone, just the inequity of it all gets me.

It reminds me of when I was in Haiti after the earthquake – and there was a man who was badly injured who was sleeping outside in the courtyard at the main hospital. There were no beds left but his family had found an old door, and had put him on it. I tried to do what I could to get him medical attention but at the end of the night, I left to sleep in my tent with a sleeping bag and a hot meal, while he stayed outside on his door and his family slept on the ground beside him.

As I got to the compound where I was staying, I had a horrible feeling about my privilege. I wanted to go back and get him, to bring his family to the compound, put him in my tent and give him food. The people I was with told me to calm down and to get rest, so I could help more people in the long run. I didn’t go get him. I slept in my tent. He slept on the ground.

But it never felt right. I had to consciously work to push away the fruit of tree of knowledge. There was NO good reason I had a tent and he had a door. It WASN’T my only option. It’s the one that I chose because “that’s the way things are.” I’m ashamed of that.

40 people to help one man.

An orange drink left beside a little girl.

That’s all I have.

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