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Saturday 23 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# Liberia
'When my son's test for Ebola came back positive, it was a night of agony for me'
16-year-old Kollie James has become Médecins Sans Frontières’ 1,000th Ebola survivor.

Katy AthersuchMédecins Sans Frontières 16-year-old Kollie James. Katy AthersuchMédecins Sans Frontières

A 16-YEAR-OLD in Liberia has become Médecins Sans Frontières’ (Doctors Without Borders) 1,000th Ebola survivor.

This week, his father, Alexander James, spoke of his joy and relief at his son’s recovery, after losing his wife, two daughters and brother to the deadly virus.

Alexander had been working with MSF as a health promotion officer, visiting villages and telling people about how to protect themselves from Ebola. He said he had tried to educate his wife about the virus but she did not believe in it and insisted on remaining in the capital, Monrovia, with three of their children while he worked in the north of the country.

His wife was the first in his family to contract and be killed by the virus.

We were together for 23 years. She understood me. She was the only one who understood me very well. I felt like I’d lost my whole memory. My eyes were open, but I didn’t know what I was looking at. I had no vision.

That same week, his brother, who worked as a nurse and had cared for his wife while she was ill, became infected and also died.

Then my two youngest children were taken to the centre in Monrovia, but my girls were very sick and they died. I felt even more helpless. I was breaking in my mind. I couldn’t make sense of anything.

He had his eldest son, 16-year-old Kollie, join him where he was working, as he was showing no signs of illness. He noticed the next day that his son was looking more tired than usual and became worried about him so he brought him to the MSF Ebola care centre in Foya to be tested.

When the test came back positive, it was a night of agony for me. I didn’t even shut my eyes for one second. I spent the whole night just crying and thinking about what would happen now to my son.I didn’t want to see my son in there. When I saw him in there, I thought about his mother. I already lost her, I wanted him to survive. I wanted him to be strong.

Katy Athersuch / MSF Kollie James with his father Alexander at the MSF guesthouse in Foya. Katy Athersuch / MSF / MSF

After some time, Kollie’s condition started to improve, his tests came back negative and he was able to leave the centre, telling his father “Pa, I am well”.

“Then MSF told me, that Kollie is the 1,000th survivor from Ebola,” said Alexandar. “This is a great thing, but I was wondering, how many more people have we lost? How many have not survived? Of course I am so happy to have Kollie still, but it’s hard not to think of all those who are no longer with us.”

When I took him home with me, he actually had a smiling face. And me too, I had a big smile on my face. I had a very good smile that day. I decided to have a little party for him. Since then, we and I do everything together. We sleep together, we eat together and we have been conversing a lot.

Kollie now wants to study biology and become a medical doctor, after the excellent care he received from the charity.

MSF has admitted more than 4,500 patients to its care centres. Among these, more than 2,700 were confirmed as having Ebola.

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