From a Conversation on Ebola in Liberia: “They Are Not Anxious to Die…”

The other night I had a good conversation with a couple of my Heart to Heart International colleagues here in Liberia.  The question I asked them was, “Why are you accepting the risk of contracting a deadly disease by volunteering to come and work in Liberia on Operation Ebola?”

While there was not one simple answer, I thought you might be interested in their responses.

nurses carry body
Nurses in full protective gear carry an Ebola victim on the way to burial. Image courtesy: NBCNews


First of all, these are people who are drawn to work that involves medical crisis, wherever it occurs in the world. They are experienced. They’ve worked in many other countries… most of which are developing countries with limited resources and infrastructure. They knew what it would be like to work here, and they did not come with false expectations either about the challenging environment or the personal risks.

I also have to say – they are amazing people. They have a heart for the needs of others and are drawn to help when people are suffering. Their willingness to do whatever it takes to be a part of the solution never ceases to amaze me.

But this is no “normal” crisis. This is an epidemic involving a deadly and virtually untreatable virus that kills indiscriminately and in a horrific manner.  Every effort to protect yourself from contracting Ebola may not be enough.  Doesn’t that make this crisis different?

Their answers were clear. No, it only makes it more important to be here and stop this thing while we still can. Both of our team members told me they were prepared to die if that is what it takes. Don’t get me wrong. They are not anxious to die! They simply acknowledged that before coming, they assessed the personal risk of dying and decided that if it cost their life, it was a price they were willing to pay.

I can’t even comment on that level of commitment other than to compare it to what I have heard quoted by many of our troops when they go to war. And that comparison is apt since this is a combat zone of sorts. It is a region that is fighting for its entire existence and needs all the medical soldiers it can assemble.  Unfortunately there are not enough soldiers here (yet) to turn the tide, but I hope there soon will be.