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Ebola Widow Carries on Husband’s Legacy

  • Kim Lewis

FILE - Isatu Salia carriers the cremated remains of her husband, Ebola victim Dr. Martin Salia, while their sons Maada Martin Salia, 20, right, and Hinwaii Sakatty Salia, 12, walk with her to enter St. Mary's Church in Landover Hills, Md., for a funeral Mass, Nov. 29, 2014.

FILE - Isatu Salia carriers the cremated remains of her husband, Ebola victim Dr. Martin Salia, while their sons Maada Martin Salia, 20, right, and Hinwaii Sakatty Salia, 12, walk with her to enter St. Mary's Church in Landover Hills, Md., for a funeral Mass, Nov. 29, 2014.

The World Health Organization has again declared Liberia Ebola-free, after 42 days without a laboratory-confirmed case of the deadly virus.

The WHO announced the news September 3. The nation now goes into a 90-day period of what the agency calls "heightened surveillance" as health officials watch for any recurrence.

Meanwhile, a woman who recently died in northern Sierra Leone tested positive for Ebola. And in Guinea, there were three confirmed cases of Ebola as of August 23.

Continuing a legacy

In the United States, Isatu Salia, the wife of Dr. Martin Salia, who died last November after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone, plans to carry on her husband’s legacy of helping those in need.

Isatu Salia said she and her two sons are trying to be strong and cope with the tragic way in which her husband died.

“I noticed the boys are watching me so closely and I realize my mood affects them sincerely. So in front of them I am just [pretending] to be O.K. sometimes, even though [I’m breaking down] inside,” she said.

As the Ebola virus ravaged Dr. Salia’s body in a Sierra Leone hospital, his family was not able to contact him. His wife tried desperately to speak with him from their Maryland home; however, she said the hospital would not allow her to do so.

“I wasn’t given the opportunity to talk with him and I think that will stay with me for life,” said Salia.

She’s adamant that health care officials must allow loved ones to communicate with patients.

“I think allowing family members to communicate with their loved ones would be of great help. That’s my only wish. Given that opportunity to talk with him, maybe something could have been better than what we are thinking of today,” said Salia.

Salia said she’d like to continue some of the humanitarian work her husband was doing in Sierra Leone.

“I very much want to continue with my husband’s legacy and his vision,” she said.

“Throughout our 22 years of our relationship and marriage, I knew him to have a special concern for those people suffering, underprivileged. He was a great man, yet he was humble and had a very big heart. So out of his own pocket he bought land in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a hospital…his vision was to build [one], and now as a grieving wife it is normal to continue this legacy and vision in Sierra Leone,” said Salia.

She has created the Dr. Martin Salia Family Foundation, which has been registered in the U.S. state of Maryland.

Grateful for generosity

Just prior to his death, the gravely ill Dr. Salia was transported from Sierra Leone to the United States. The journey was very expensive, however Isatu Salia said through generous contributions from individuals and her church community, her husband’s bill was paid in full.

“We thank God that the bill of approximately $245,000 is paid off. And my family and I want to really appreciate those people who made this thing happen; these bills are paid," said Isatu Salia.

She said her parish and the Archdiocese of Washington were among the many generous contributors.

“We collected over $225,000 in donations from generous individuals who paid off my husband’s bill. And we also want to recognize the United Methodist Church. They contributed $21,000, which they paid directly to the State Department….that’s a huge thing that that’s paid off,” she said.

Salia also thanked Voice of America for being the first news agency to contact her when her husband became ill with the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone.

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