Friday, October 3, 2014

Why I Hijacked My Sister's Blog (Guest Post)


On August 15, 2014, a friend (also my co-worker) emailed to see how my family in Nigeria was doing when she heard it had spread there. Below was my response (written on August 16th) and it answers why I partially hijacked my sister’s blog… I initially tried to use the Note function on Facebook but it didn’t seem to be working so I gave up and just wrote in dependable Microsoft Word – this reminds me to give a special shout out to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for donating money ($50 million) and services to the Ebola epidemic.  –TAI

Thanks for always being so sweet... I have mixed emotions about it all: sad, hopeful, bitter, guilty, relieved, confused, and honestly... terrified...I think the scary answer is that only time will tell. What is known is that Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have been struggling with this crisis a long time and any numbers reported are underestimations. For Nigeria, it's so new and yet has the potential to be disastrous.

It's horrible this is happening, but not entirely unexpected (in some ways, it's a surprising relief it hadn't spread sooner). Any hope I have that Nigeria's cases will be limited is based on the fact that Nigeria is more developed than the other 3 countries. However, our healthcare system is still not something to write home about... in fact in a separate matter, there is currently a national physician's strike and in retaliation, the President fired the resident doctors (ALL of them)! Sigh... Back to Ebola, they reportedly have been keeping tabs on those who came into contact with the infected individual, so again only time will tell. I think the total days to hold one's breath is 60-120* days past the last case [my overestimation was based on a news clip I watched based on other past epidemics]. So far in Nigeria, reportedly only 11 people have been affected and 3 have died. I was extremely saddened to hear yesterday that an old schoolmate of mine passed away from the virus. She was a nurse who helped the affected man (Patrick Sawyer) from the plane. She wrote on her Facebook page that the hospital was taking appropriate precautions, but I doubt her hospital had [reliably] running water talk less of antiseptic wipes... Infection control does exist but it's certainly more vulnerable than anything we do over here. Double sigh... So everyone just has to be careful. The city affected (Lagos) is the most populated in Africa and people travel in and out of it all the time. I can only hope and pray, it stays limited. Another thing in our favor is that people in that city are largely educated and would at least in part understand the importance of this situation. In the other 3 countries, the education is a big problem as well as mistrust of the medical system (so some people run away from care and inadvertently spread it).

It's right out of a Hollywood movie (cf. Contagion or Outbreak), complete with a ground-breaking miracle drug - Zmapp! Triple Sigh... I've always felt strange with "compassionate use" scenarios. I'm happy that the favored individuals caught a break, but it's hard to know that there are those who didn't make the cut (this is something I struggle with even in our Oncology world). Now I've learned since that there are other companies working on other Ebola drugs too (all in the pre-clinical stages, though some are close to phase 1 trials). For some reason the Zmapp company offered their services and it was a risk, but it was also hope. A few days before my schoolmate died, one of our mutual friends posted on Facebook that everyone should sign a petition to get her Zmapp. What made her more worthy of it? Because her friends were educated enough to know such a drug exists? Because she (like the two Americans) were sacrificing themselves to help others? And so on... I can't judge or finger-point because I am clearly blessed living here in my First World existence. I can only pray for the best and try not be so stoic/ignorant of the craziness in the world (including in our hem/onc world).

Sorry for venting on you like this, I think I've been bottling it up inside, hehe. Thank you for caring! That's the most important and appreciated thing. :)

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