This is Juliana (19), an Ebola survivor from Heigbema village outside of Kenema, a district of Sierra Leone that has been ravaged by the outbreak. Juliana caught the virus from her mother, who she had shared a bed with, and then passed it onto her 7-month-old son Alieu who tragically died inside the isolation ward. When I spoke to Juliana two weeks ago she was awaiting the release of her husband from the treatment unit. “My husband is inside, he is improving, I hope he comes out soon”.
Juliana was obviously exhausted by the ordeal she had just suffered, but was also strong, and to me carried the beautiful glow of someone who was ready to start again. I commented on how bright she looked and complimented her on her embroidered skirt and top (there’s never an inappropriate moment for a conversation about fashion). They belonged to her mother and are two of the few items of clothing she now owns.
Ebola survivors are usually forced to burn their belongings when they return to their homes by family members who are scared of infection. Juliana said she has very few clothes remaining in her cupboard as most have been destroyed.
At the time of writing this I spoke to Juliana’s brother Alhassan (another survivor) he shared the crushing news that Juliana’s husband John had passed away two days earlier. Juliana assured me when we met “Our family is strong,”.
A video of Alhassan’s story shot by Mike Duff when we were in Kenema two weeks ago appears on the Guardian site and can be found here. It further highlights the courage of this family and the growing number of Ebola survivors.