Please be sure to check our facebook page for current updates from Travis and Gina as they are back in Ganta since November.
January 25th, 2015
U.S. Embassy Monrovia, Liberia Message for U.S. Citizens: Cancellation of Travel Warning for Liberia January 22, 2015 On August 7, 2014 the U.S. Department of State issued a Travel Warning advising against non-essential travel to Liberia. After review of health conditions, the U.S. Department of State ordered the departure of family members residing with Embassy staff in Monrovia. The Embassy recommended this action out of an abundance of caution following the determination that there was a lack of options for routine health care services at major medical facilities due to the Ebola outbreak. There have been major accomplishments in the fight against Ebola, and for the first time in several months we are seeing lower rates of new infections, reduced demand at Ebola treatment units, and other positive signs. Embassy Monrovia now has access to pre-Ebola level health care and most of the clinics and hospitals that were available and adequate for at least outpatient referral prior to the Ebola epidemic have re-opened, offering basic services, with improved infection control practices. The national response plan for infection control has continued to improve and move toward wider implementation, and is believed to be at pre-Ebola levels or better. Due to these changes, as of January 21, 2015 the U.S. Department of State has lifted the ordered departure. Please be advised that while most hospitals and clinics have reopened, only basic services are provided. If you arrive in Liberia and subsequently need routine or emergency medical care, you should expect limited options. Travelers are advised that air carriers chartered by medical evacuation insurance companies may not be able to provide timely services in Liberia or the region. Policy holders should confirm the availability of medical evacuation services prior to travel. While commercial flights are still available from Monrovia, some airlines have discontinued service and flights may be more difficult to obtain. Please review the Travel Alert issued December 2, 2014.
January 15, 2015 The War Against Ebola Continues In Liberia
As you know Trav does not really type much in the way of reports but these past two days have been heavy on his heart and here is his report:
What an emotional couple of days. It seems every day we witness the frailties of life and yesterday, we saw it up close and personal. Perhaps it’s a wake-up call to be aware, to be cognizant of each breath. Many of you read Gina’s post on facebook about Ozino, one of our day helpers that showed up at the Ag Compound with little hope; emaciated, red-eyed, and hurting bad. He had been kicked out of the place he was renting because he was obviously sick and the fear of Ebola runs deep around here. It’s an invisible bullet and many would prefer to face the real thing. “At least you see what you are fearing when it’s a real bullet”, many locals say. “We go to sleep and wonder if we’ll wake up”. “I spoke to my brother on the phone and 30 minutes later he was dead”. This is why Ozino was ousted from his rented room-fear; fear, that reverberates in this country right now.
My first measure was to take Ozino’s temperature as that is a first indicator of Ebola. To my relief, it was normal. When I began to question him about his ailment, he quickly pointed to his groin area and then dropped his trousers to show me a hernia that was causing severe pain. The pain had been so intense that he could not eat which caused him to “reduce”, as they would say here (lose weight). Frail and not near the stature of health he was 10 days ago, he was only a resemblance of the 19 year old boy I knew. I could not believe the night and day difference- from a boy that could work all day to one which could hardly walk.
What to do? Here at the mission, there are many eyes on every move made. We strive to be good examples and be kind and compassionate but we are not a place to make handouts. Ozino wanted (needed) help and stated that he would work-off any endured cost when he was better. Ozino is from Guinea, and has no relatives here in Ganta. I knew his options were limited and the sad reality was death was next for Ozino if we didn’t intervene. I asked him to “wait small”, which means to wait for a little while on a nearby bench. I wanted to think about the approach to his situation and also get Gina’s input.
Of course Gina was all in to do something. As the day was gradually fading, Gina gathered up some blankets and I found an area rug that could be used as a bed. With the dogs in the house and the unknowns about Ozino’s history or possible illnesses, we bedded him down in the greenhouse which stays comfortably warm most of the night. The locals freeze this time of the year as the temperature can drop to 70 degrees at night and that’s why Gina gathered up clothes and blankets for him.
6:30 in the evening came quickly and there was no sign of Ozino. I thought maybe he went to get cleaned up and ready to settle in to his make-shift bedroom. Humm, where could he be? “Oh” I heard myself gasp, as I peered through a crack in the plastic on the greenhouse, I could see one eyeball peering back at me from beneath a pile of blankets. Only an eyeball, all else was covered to assure a warm nights rest. I was concerned so I said, “Ozino, are you okay?” A soft voice responded, “I okay”, “thank you, thank you”. Heartbroken, and with a lump in my throat…I walked away.
This morning we awoke to find Ozino ready but a bit nervous to go to the hospital. Tests were to take place first so I stayed behind and our driver Mark drove and accompanied Ozino. Soon the phone call came that divulged Ozino’s blood type as O positive and I became a potential donor. Most people here sell their blood rather than to give it away. Since I have “free” blood, I opted to be the donor. Mark returned to the Ag Center to “carry” me to the hospital lab. Remember the conditions at the hospital are nothing like we know in the States. The smells, sights and sounds are heart wrenching. My arrival in the tiny lab area caused a bit of a double take for most. It’s sad, but they did not expect me to give my blood for a black boy- to subject myself to undergo such a procedure- to be tested for all those bad diseases to make sure I have clean blood. They offered to try to find someone else. The nurse told me that she once took blood from a (white) French lady that donated to help save a Liberian’s life many years ago.
Ozino also was diagnosed with malaria hence the red eyes. Since he has malaria and he is malnourished, the doctor wants to wait and operate on the 20th of this month. The doctor also told me to make sure Ozion “eats plenty” between now and then to strengthen his body so that he will be stronger to undergo surgery.
Gina and I find ourselves being parents to many. We continually need prayers from all of you for discernment. I pray often for discernment. Every day we meet (too many) unexpected challenges and “all eyes” are watching our every move. We need to be wise in our actions and swift in doing the right thing. Please pray for Ozino’s recovery three times; first to be recovered to have surgery. Second for recovery after surgery, and finally to recover in his faith.
Follow their Ebola update:
November 30th 2014:
This week this lady sent her children packing rocks. People here are very creative and early in the morning while we are on our four mile run we will see children in the road scooping handfuls of rocks into sacks. They will load the sacks on top of their heads and take them to sell them. The next time we attempt to drive down the road the jeep we will hit each one of those newly dug holes until the UN comes and delivers more rock. The rock gets delivered and the children take them to sell. What if this was your only way to live one more day? We found this family truly packing rocks to sell, it was their means of surviving one more day. The father died from Ebola (very sad story). The mother and her children while spared from Ebola have quickly become outcasts in the community. No one would come to their aid, and as true hunger was setting in the family’s last hope was to return to their village, perhaps a family member would give them some bread. They were selling the bag of rocks for $350.00LD or just a little over $4.00. Thanks to your generous response this family is staying in their home in Ganta, with rice, food stuff and other supplies. You made another difference in Liberia, a big difference in this family – you gave them HOPE!
November 24th, 2014
After an unexpected three month delay Travis and Gina finally returned back to their home in Ganta Liberia. They had to stop three different times at Ebola checkpoints. Each time they would get out of the jeep, walk to the hand wash station, wash their hands in bleach and a splash of water and then have their temperature taken.