Thursday, December 6, 2007

Test of Courage

This is a real test of courage that I have been thinking of. Not in the abstract, but in real life. Would I be able to do what is right? What I believe is right?

There is an outbreak of Ebola in the country.

Ebola. Ugandans have learnt to live with HIV. It is not the killer it once was. Almost everyone knows a friend, or a relative living with HIV. And a close person who has died of the same. A terror whose familiarity has dullened the feel of.

But there is Ebola.

A frightening disease. Rapid onset. Very high fevers, we are told. Then the bleeding from everywhere, and then death. High mortality. In the outbreak in Gulu, it was as high as 90% of all people infected. It is reputed to be lower than that.

And the fact that it is highly contagious.

I have written of the medics working on the frontline. The fm stations were rife yesterday with talk about what has been happening. On Sunday, they were supposed to have fled the affected district. Bundibugyo.

Yesterday, in rapid succession, 3 of them were reported to have died.

They are very poorly equipped, at the frontline. Little protective clothing. Low salaries, low motivation, a high patient burden. And an employer who regularly messes with their pay.

So the medics are apparently demanding high wages to work with the victims of Ebola. And they want to be paid on a daily basis. Danger fees.

The psychology of desperation.

They are risking their lives on a daily basis. Hour to hour, minute to minute. Yes, they some will stay and work, but they want to see the fruits of their work now. Not tomorrow, not at the end of the month. Now.

They want to be sure that at least, if they survive today, and not tomorrow, the government, their employer, will have given them something for their work. They would have at least used it. Not to die, and their families to wait for years before the government remembers how courageous they were. To be glorified as martyrs, when the benefits are long delayed and the person already dust.


The altruism of the medical profession. Is it supposed to be like so?

Do not fault them.

I was wondering whether I would be able to work in this kind of situation. Knowing that I was playing with a gruesome death while at work, risking every moment of my life.

My lover is definite. It would be beyond the call of duty. He is very practical. What is profitable is profitable. What is not profitable is not profitable. Dreams are dreams, and they do not profit. So do ideals. They are not practical, and not profitable.

And I think of one doctor, Mathew Lukwiya. Medical Superitendent of Lacor hospital. The guy had the guts to walk into the ward of death. And to supervise the care when he was also infected, and later died.

Would I have done it?

What is the test of courage? What is the taste of courage? And of foolhardiness?

The risks are so many. The conditions so tough. The rewards are so few.

My thoughts are with the medics in Bundibugyo district as they moan the deaths of their colleagues. Whether they ran away from the job or not, I am a mortal man. I was not at their job. Their demands for immediate compesation. Again, I am a mortal man.

I do not know whether I would have the courage to face death, however high the monetary rewards.

I salute the Health Workers in Bundibugyo district in Uganda.

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