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Monday, December 17, 2007

21 Days! Ebola Bundibugyo on Monday Night

Today we are celebrating emerging from the danger zone, though the joy is heavily mingled with the deep sadness of those who lost their lives, particularly Jonah.  In the dark hours after his death we truly thought we might not be writing this today.  So we should thank God that for His inscrutable reasons He has ordained that we remain symptom free for 21 days, and in the clear.  Melen and family reach their safety zone on Wednesday.  In our daily visits I sense a slight lightening of spirit, a hope.

Tonight’s meeting saw the RDC, the LC5, the DDHS, and the CAO (chief administrative officer), the four most powerful men in the district, all back in place.  The RDC opened with the statement that the enemy has just made a tactical withdrawal but is not defeated, so don’t relax.  The struggle continues.
  • Cumulative cases:  126
  • Cumulative deaths: 34 (holding for DAYS now); CFR 27%
  • Current Admissions:  Bundibugyo 5; with 2 new admissions, 1 discharge, and 0 deaths.  Kikyo also 5, with 1 new admission, 4 discharges, and 0 deaths.  More discharges expected tomorrow.
  • Contacts:  487 have been listed, with 408 being actively followed (others like us have reached the 21 day limit).  Today 88% of those were evaluated by energetic mobile teams, now boosted by five young MPH students from the Institute of Public Health, all Ugandan doctors who have joined the CDC in their efforts.
  • Complaints:  tribalism surfaces again, with the Bakonjo claiming that the social mobilization teams are speaking only in Lubwisi . . . Which prompted a LONG discussion of the mobilization effort.  Are the Bakonjo areas just harder to reach (steep, scattered), or are the complainers angling for jobs and pay, or is there really any problem at all?  Much emphasis was put tonight on using the LC1 system, the political organization of the country, to address communities.  I think they ended up deciding that various big men should volunteer to train LC1 chairmen to reach every community.
  • Dissension:  much discussion again of local herbal remedies, with some herbalists now spreading the word that certain recovered cases only recovered due to their medicines . . . And not so surprisingly, many of the people in the task force are not so sure, the power of the belief in traditional medicine is widespread.  A couple of brave voices asked for science to interpret the results, and warned that if herbalists are invited to participate as part of the official task force then we will be inadvertently authenticating their claims.
  • Money:  there is now a 2 billion shilling plus budget, but the Ministry has to approve it.  Refreshing moment: In contrast to all the grabbing we see in the political sphere, we were handed a document today by one of the translators who works on the Lubwisi Bible project, who had taken the information about Ebola and translated it.  Unlike everyone else we have encountered, this man wrote at the bottom:  translated at no cost, for the good of the people of Bundibugyo and the glory of God.  Amen.

And the emotions of the day for us:  relief, and eager anticipation of going to Kampala tomorrow (Jennifer) to see the kids.  At this point we are still planning that the non-medical team stay out, and Scotts and Pat join the rest for Christmas.  But our kids call several times a day asking when they can come home, and why not for Christmas.  Now that the epidemic has slowed in its relentlessness, we are torn.  We don’t want anyone to be exposed.  But the chances of that are remote for those who don’t see sick patients.  Our kids’ friends, who are flocking back to our house, asked today, when are they coming, and why not now if you are safe?  Once again, we are torn by our care for these kids, and the painful reality that our standards for our kids and team are different than our standards for local people.  Unfair, and stressful when you’re here facing reality.  Actually most of the rest of the country and the world is probably more uptight about Ebola than the average person in Bundibugyo, and for good reason.  If you aren’t here, then Bundiubugyo = Ebola.  If you are here, then you see that 99% of life is about other things, the normal human interactions that constitute a day.  Pray for wisdom for us and our mission leadership, who have to buy into the decision on when to sound the all clear.

And tonight, to close, a little reminder of life going on.  Dear team mate and friend Heather Pike Agnello is in labor with her first baby, while a few hours from now dear team mate and friend Rick Gray will celebrate the milestone of 50 years (Dec 18!!!).  Happy birthdays.


Anonymous said...


Continued prayers for wisdom. As a mother, I can't IMAGINE feeling the need to be seperated from my children. I know their safety and the safety of the rest of your team is of great importance, so we will ask our Father God to show you the perfect timeline. We love you guys! A far away "friend"

Nick Lazipone said...

Last week you shared your Christmas poem about Rachel from Jer 31:15 with us. I think that v. 16 is very applicable this week.

"This is what the Lord says: 'Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,' declares the Lord. 'They will return from the land of your enemy. So there is hope for your future,' declares the Lord. 'You children will return to their own land."

Think of the testament you have been to all the doctors you have worked with, and the lives you are affecting by sharing your story. Be encouraged by knowing that there are hundreds of strangers around the world who you may never meet that have been praying for you this week.

Be sure to update us on your kids and the rest of the team so we know how to pray for them as well.