IMPACT

'Pa, I Am Well:' Doctors Without Borders Saves 1,000th Ebola Patient

Doctors Without Borders is back in the limelight, but this time it’s for hitting an impressive milestone.

The first international aid organization to respond to the epidemic in West Africa has repeatedly warned that it was stretched to capacity, and came under fire on Thursday after one of its physicians tested positive in New York City after returning from Guinea.

But the group has pushed forward and announced this week that it had saved its 1,000th patient since March.

Kollie James, a teenage Liberian boy who lost his mother, two sisters and uncle to the disease, is now Ebola-free.

"Stop crying Papa, I will not die," Kollie told his despondent father from across the treatment center’s fence in Foya, Liberia, after he was diagnosed. "My sisters are gone, but I am going to survive and I will make you proud."

Nearly 5,000 people have succumbed to the world's worst Ebola outbreak on record, according to the World Health Organization and Liberia has been hit the hardest.

The trajectory of the high schooler's story highlights the varying and nuanced struggles aid groups face in trying to contain the disease.

Kollie's father, Alexander, works as a health promotion officer in northern Liberia with Doctors Without Borders, but still couldn’t convince his wife to leave their home in Monrovia and join him.

"She denied Ebola," he said.

Alexander’s wife and two daughters eventually contracted the virus and died last month. His brother, a nurse, also died from Ebola after caring for Alexander’s family.

Though the virus has been raging since March, many people in West Africa still don’t consider Ebola a threat until they become highly contagious and simply don’t trust foreign health care workers, the Guardian reported. There are also strange rumors being spread about physicians harvesting organs from unconfirmed Ebola cases.

When Kollie met his father in Foya after losing his mother, uncle and sisters, the village outright rejected him because of the heavy stigma associated with Ebola.

It’s another factor that's contributing to the spread of the disease.

Children who have been orphaned by Ebola are often left to fend for themselves because family members are reluctant to take them in. Survivors are being shunned by their communities, despite the fact that they are now immune and could play critical roles in caring for people with the disease.

After his son started exhibiting symptoms, Alexander’s worst fears were confirmed when Kollie tested positive at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Foya.

The group currently operates six medical centers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and has 3,000 personnel on the ground.

Alexander worried that his son would meet the same fate as his other family members. Counselors comforted the concerned dad every day, urging him to keep calm.

"When finally I saw [my son] come out, I felt so very, very happy," Alexander wrote in a post for the aid group. "I looked at him and he said to me, 'Pa, I am well.'"

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BEFORE YOU GO

  • James and Tamah Mulbah
    Ebola survivor James Mulbah, 2, stands with his mother, Tamah Mulbah, 28, who also recovered from Ebola in the low-risk secti
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor James Mulbah, 2, stands with his mother, Tamah Mulbah, 28, who also recovered from Ebola in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center, after a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia.
  • Benetha Coleman
    Ebola survivor Benetha Coleman, 24, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center afte
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Benetha Coleman, 24, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after attending a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. She said that her husband and two children died due to the disease.
  • Jeremra Cooper
    Ebola survivor Jeremra Cooper, 16, wipes his face from the heat while in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Jeremra Cooper, 16, wipes his face from the heat while in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The 8th grade student said he lost six family members to the Ebola epidemic before coming down sick with the disease himself and being sent to the MSF center, where he recovered after one month.
  • Zaizay Mulbah and Mark Jerry
    Ebola survivors Zaizay Mulbah, 34, and Mark Jerry, 30, right, stand together before their shifts as nurse's assistants at the
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivors Zaizay Mulbah, 34, and Mark Jerry, 30, right, stand together before their shifts as nurse's assistants at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. Jerry was a money changer and Mulbah a delivery driver before they caught the disease and went to the center, where they recovered. Doctors Without Borders hired them afterward to counsel and comfort others stricken by the disease.
  • Eric Forkpa
    Ebola survivor Eric Forkpa, 23, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after me
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Eric Forkpa, 23, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after meeting with fellow survivors on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The college student, who is majoring in civil engineering, said he thinks he caught Ebola while caring for his sick uncle, who died of the disease. He spent 18 days at the center recovering from the virus.
  • Emanuel Jolo
    Ebola survivor Emanuel Jolo, 19, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after a
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Emanuel Jolo, 19, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The high school student lost six family members and believes he caught the disease while washing the body of his father, who died of Ebola.
  • Sontay Massaley
    Ebola survivor Sontay Massaley, 37, smiles upon her release from the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Octobe
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Sontay Massaley, 37, smiles upon her release from the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. Massaley, who spent 8 days recovering from the disease in the center, said she worked as a vendor in a market before contracting the virus.
  • Victoria Masah
    Ebola survivor Victoria Masah, 28, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Oc
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Victoria Masah, 28, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. She said her husband and two children died of Ebola.
  • Abrahim Quota
    Ebola survivor Abrahim Quota, 5, stands outside the JFK Ebola treatment center after recovering from the disease on October 1
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Abrahim Quota, 5, stands outside the JFK Ebola treatment center after recovering from the disease on October 13, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. He had arrived at the treatment center 10 days before with his parents, who both died there from the virus. The Ministry of Health was to deliver him home after his release to live with relatives.
  • Lassana Jabeteh
    Ebola survivor Lassana Jabeteh, 36, smiles before his shift as a nurse's assistant at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treat
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Lassana Jabeteh, 36, smiles before his shift as a nurse's assistant at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. He said that he previously worked as a taxi driver and that he thinks he caught Ebola when he transported a sick policeman who vomited in his car on the way to the hospital. Doctors Without Borders hired Jabeteh after he recovered in their treatment center and he now counsels and comforts others stricken by the disease.
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