JFK Hospital, one of Liberia’s largest and oldest medical facilities, had to close temporarily in July, following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen.
This morning, it’s brimming with pregnant women - unthinkable not too long ago.
“And she had Ebola. And you can see all the symptoms: red [difficult to understand: eyes/hide], diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, vomited and everything. And she collapsed right here in the maternity area which is this building. She was not removed. The body remained here for at least over 48 hours and that created panic," recalls Chief Medical Officer Dr. Billy C. Johnson, referring to an Ebola patient he treated. Johnson was one of the few doctors who stayed to care for JFK’s patients.
Many health workers refused to work for fear of Ebola. Among the first who came back were JFK’s midwives - including Fatmata F. Kanneh.
“Our pregnant mothers were dying on the street. So they were giving birth to different, different areas. So we thought that we should come back and serve our people," she says.
The midwives motivated other health workers to return - despite the risks from Ebola.
The medical staff has to adhere to strict precautions and follows a syndromic management protocol to treat sick patients - meaning without touching them. Health workers ask patients about symptoms and diagnose them accordingly. But it is not all sickness according to midwife Kanneh.
“Sometimes you see woman in labor crying whole day. After the woman give birth, you take the baby and show it to the mother, the mother will have a smile. We always bring smile to people," she says.
In the first three weeks after opening its doors, the maternity ward delivered 93 babies - bringing life in a time filled with death.