Survival In the Midst of the Ebola Outbreak

For many Americans, the thought of the Ebola virus is a scary one, but also one that is limited to our TV screens and our wildest imaginations. Though there has been one recorded victim of the virus in the United States, the reality of the matter is that Ebola is of no threat to a majority of the citizens of this country.

In places like Liberia, in West Africa, however, the threat of Ebola is a very real, and very daunting one. For one family in particular, the virus has struck with a vengeance and has left a once healthy family of 7 in its wake.

It all started about a month ago when Promise Cooper, a 16-year old Monrovian resident, began hearing her mother complain of a headache and ever-worsening fever. After a few days, on their trek to a nearby hospital, Promise’s mother suddenly died. Shortly thereafter, Promise’s father began complaining of the same symptoms and was growing sicker by the day. In a place where malaria runs rampant, Promise did not immediately consider the possibility that her family, her household had become infected by Ebola. Sure, she had heard about it on the radio and in the news, but at that time in Liberia, the virus was an outside threat and came second to the slew of other diseases that threaten the lives of many West Africans.

A Fight For Survival

As her father lay in bed growing increasingly ill, Promise mandated that her younger siblings play outside and avoid, at all costs, the confines of their family’s one-room home. At that same time, family members and neighbors began growing increasingly suspicious with regard to the Cooper’s health status and avoided the family and their home. In a culture where family members are always there for one another, Promise began to deal with the harsh reality that not even her aunts, uncles, or grandparents would come anywhere near their Monrovia residence.

At this point, nearly 4,000 children across Western Africa have lost one or more parents to the spreading virus. According to the UN’s children’s agency, this conservative estimate stands the chance of doubling, if not tripling, within the next few weeks.

While trying her hardest to keep her family healthy, Promise’s 5-month old brother, Success Cooper, also fell victim to the virus and died a quick, painful death. Within days, an ambulance arrived at the Cooper’s not only to take the infant’s body, but to admit Mr. Cooper and the now sick 11-year old Emmanuel Junior Cooper to the hospital.

Now, Promise was left to look after her 15-year old brother and 13-year old sister with little to no help from the outside world. While an uncle did deliver some money, he arrived and left the Cooper’s residence without so much as touching a single one of his relatives for fear of infection. Even with the money, Promise found that she was refused service at stores and avoided at all costs by passersby. It got so bad that Monrovian residents would follow the Coopers around and spray bleach on everything they touched.

A few days later, Promise and her siblings made their way to the clinic where their father and brother were admitted, only to find out that Emmanuel Cooper Senior had since passed. The status of her 11-year old brother, however, was not discovered by Promise, and the anguish of the unknown caused her to break down on the spot.

A Community Leader Steps In

Days after visiting the clinic and not being able to find out the status of her younger brother, a community leader stepped in and took Promise, her brother, and her sister into his home. For fear that the children would not be able to survive by themselves, he risked it all just to provide a bit of comfort.

Shortly thereafter, the Cooper’s story got a bit brighter as Promise finally found out that her brother, Emmanuel Junior, was still alive. While watching television, Promise saw a photo of her brother amongst a long list of children who had survived the virus but were still without their families. Emmanuel Junior was finally returned home, and though Promise’s sister, Ruth, became ill a short while later, she too was able to survive the disease and will, with some time, eventually return home. Though the Cooper family and the neighborhood they lived in was and continues to be ravaged by this deadly virus, there is still plenty of hope surrounding the entire situation.

The Cooper’s story is just one of many heartbreaking tales stemming from West Africa, but is also a harrowing tale of survival and bravery on the part of 16-year old Promise. Though the Ebola virus has yet to really become an issue in the United States, it is definitely a global issue worth paying attention to. There are no proven cures for Ebola, and doctors say the only way to avoid falling victim to the virus is to employ proper prevention techniques: Avoid contact with the infected, report symptoms to doctors immediately, and, most importantly, wash your hands at each and every turn. Ebola may not be able to be defeated overnight, or even in the next year, but with some precaution, it can be avoided in the United States.