Thoughts on Ebola
On cue, we run across the valley, across a creek, and then into bushes. We stay close. Never looking back. I am fifteen and I run like I have never ran before. As we go further into the bushes, it gets darker and darker. Together we move as one, for we cannot see ahead. The moon provides some light when we are in the open, but most of the time in the bushes it was pitch dark. We stop and lie down on the desert ground to rest. It gets colder. A baby cries close by..."
I try to run away, but the sound of the baby crying draws me. I crawl toward the sound and find the mother lying motionless, not breathing. The moonlight shines bright on the helpless child's innocent eyes looking at me. I look at her mother. I close the mother's eyes, grab her carryall and lift the child into my arms. If I leave her she is certain to die. I run with the others toward the wagon that take us to a wagon that takes us to a garage. Everyone smiles, because we have made the crossing! I think, I am safe now from the gangs and rapists that roam the streets of my home in Guatemala. My family has pooled their savings so that I might make it to my cousins in America.
We make no noise. I remember that the child's mother joined us late. Her eyes were bright and her face was flushed. Nerves? Excitement?
I quietly ask around. No one claims to have known the mother or the child. To leave the child would mean its death. I am afraid to ask the Coyote or trust him with the child. Her crying endangers them all and he would just as soon abandon her to the desert animals, I know. The carry all has no diapers for the baby. Another mother shares diapers with me. The little girl opens her eyes and smiles at me. I scrounge through the carryall and find a bottle though I only have water to give her. I cannot abandon the baby!
An older woman holds the child for me to dispose of the diaper. The coyote throws the diaper back at me. They are to leave no sign. I pick up the diaper and put it into the carryall. There is nowhere to wash my hands. The coyote touches each individual and pushes them into different groups. Together, but apart, he takes us to the San Diego airport for a flight to Los Angeles. The coyote directs me and others in my group to a cab. The child cries and throws up. I comfort the child who falls asleep. A coyote assistant takes us to a nice neighborhood with fine homes and large yards.
From there, he once again divides the group. Overnight buses, trucks and cars transport members of the group to different parts of the country. I find my family living in Alabama. They see the sick child. They are concerned.
"We are all in America illegally. If we go to the hospital with the sick child, will we be deported?" I ask. I do not want to go back.
My family work hard in construction or plants trees or picks fruit. I brought this upon us. We decide that I will take the child to the small rural hospital in Alabama.
I go to the restroom and change the baby's diaper once more. "They will take care of you here, little one," I whisper. I put the dirty diaper in the pail. I take the child into the emergency room and then I go to prepare myself some coffee to fill my empty stomach filling it with sugar. I look back into the room. No one is watching. I slip out of the waiting room and run into the dark and several blocks over. I climb into the waiting car.
I have done all I could for the child. I am safe. The child is safe. I am so exhausted that my eyes ache. The coffee did not sit well on my stomach. But I smile and laugh. I have made it. I kiss my cousin and her children.
A nurse comes out to register the woman who was just there. She finds the child.
The child is dehydrated. They take the child into the emergency room and call all social services to aid the child. A young mother walks in with her child. She puts her diaper bag on the floor where the young woman stood preparing the coffee. She touches the same carafe. She walks with her child by the hand to where the infant was found. She places the diaper bag on the entry counter. Her child falls to the floor. She lifts him in her arms and places him on the entry counter, signs in then goes to her seat.
As Business Insider reports, "EBOLA preys on our human need to touch and care for the sick, which is why much of its spread is to caregivers and healthcare workers.
"The mechanism Ebola exploits is far more insidious," as Benjamin Hale wrote in Slate. "This virus preys on care and love, piggybacking on the deepest, most distinctively human virtues."
That's why the virus strikes children, their parents, families, and communities. All it takes is one small slipup, one uncalculated act of humanity, and the disease spreads even further.
In this simple scenario, who all is now contaminated? Has that hospital developed a secure isolation unit and invested in protective gear for nurses and health care workers? How carefully is the baby's specimen taken to the lab or does it go through a pneumatic tube loosing the virus onto the sides of the tube and potentially onto other specimens that those in the lab come into contact with? The young woman touched the doors, the coffee machine, her shoes carry the virus into the room.
How many others eventually come into contact with the baby, the young woman and the vehicles in which they rode? Will the child go immediately into foster care?
How secure is the water system? Will the sewage from flushing toilets be treated sufficiently so that the virus does not get into the water supply? Will all possibly contaminated materials be properly taken care of?
The hospital waiting room could just as easily have been a fast food restaurant, bus station, or grocery store.
As I think these thoughts, I cannot help but wonder about the economic repercussions and the way we live life thinking about potential spread of this deadly disease. Although Ebola spreads less easily than a cold, because it isn't airborne, the Ebola virus is far more persistent.
Like cold germs, Ebola virus particles survive on dry surfaces, like doorknobs and countertops, for several hours. But unlike a cold virus, which primarily infects the respiratory tract, Ebola can also live in bodily fluids like blood and saliva for several days at room temperature.
Doctors have found Ebola in the semen of men who have survived the virus up to three months after they recover.
The bill for the average Ebola patient treated in the US is a lofty $1,000 per hour. In West Africa, where that sort of money isn't available, most patients simply go home to die. Is our for profit health care prepared for such an onslaught?
As I wrote the scenario above, I realized that the disease cannot be contained in Texas.
So, what can we do to protect ourselves and our families. Hand sanitizers — along with chlorine, heat, direct sunlight, soaps and detergents — can kill Ebola living outside of a host, according to Doctors Without Borders and numerous reports. Washing hands with soap and water immediately after contact with potentially affected areas, objects or persons is effective. When soap is not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is a good substitute.
For those who want something stronger, Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing, a non-profit humanitarian organization, told the Washington Post chlorine is most effective. “Soap and water is better than nothing, but chlorine and water is what will kill the virus and stop the spread of Ebola,” Horan said last week.