Why I won’t go to Africa to help fight Ebola
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As a nursing student, I participate in interdisciplinary ethics meetings with healthcare professionals and students. At the last meeting, the question posed was: “Would you go to Africa to help with the Ebola crisis?”
Some people said no, with reasons ranging from “I don’t feel qualified” to “We don’t know enough about the virus’ transmission.” Some said yes, because as healthcare professionals, we are to help other people. I said I would consider it.
When asked to explain, my heartbeat quickened; my face grew warm; my voice wavered. Not because of nerves but because this topic is emotional for me.
You see, I volunteered at a Cambodian hospital this summer and learned a lot about caring for health needs in other countries. Upon returning to the United States, I had more than dirty socks to unpack. With some nudging from a counselor, I delved into unpacking complex emotions and wrestling with the “why’s” of preventable suffering and death. Why did God want me to witness such suffering?
After many prayers the Lord showed me that he allowed me to see the suffering because He sees each person’s pain, too. He grieves compassionately for each of them, and He has invited me into that part of His heart. Though I never would have asked to be ushered into this part of God’s heart, He chose to bring me in anyway — and I know Him more intimately for it.
So when people asked about my response to Ebola, my voice wavered, my heart pounded and face flushed because talking about healthcare in other countries stirs up emotions. The reason I would not consider going is because seeing people suffer and die in a developing country is extremely hard emotionally, mentally and spiritually. When you know just as much as physicians about medical care for a disease, and you still do not know what to do to treat someone — that is one of the most helpless and overwhelming feelings that exists.
I have prayed about going, yet for now, I will not travel to help with the Ebola crisis because my heart is not ready for it. After a summer in Cambodia, there is unfinished grieving and healing for my heart to finish.
Perhaps, when we talk about going to Africa and the reasons we would or would not go, we are mistaken about the hardest parts of being there. Perhaps the hardest part would not be the fear of contracting the virus or not feeling qualified to treat a patient. Perhaps the hardest part would be the grieving it would demand from our hearts. Should we shy away from this kind of grief? No. As I said before, I know the Lord more intimately for it. Should we prayerfully seek the Lord as to whether we should go or stay? Yes. For whichever way He leads, I believe this: we will know the Lord more intimately for it.
By: Allison Toy