As Ebola raged through Liberia in August and September of 2014, hospitals were closing since more and more health care workers were becoming infected. Less than two months after we opened Refuge Place Clinic, we were forced to shut down due to similar concerns about our health care staff. Then one day I witnessed something terrible. A woman was rejected from a private hospital because she could not afford the care. The hospital had determined from an ultrasound that she was at term with twins. Her husband was a motorbike rider with barely any daily income. As she walked from the clinic, she went into labor and started giving birth in the street. Women in the neighborhood surrounded her with their fabric wrappers to give her some privacy. I arrived on the scene after she had already given birth. She was swollen and her babies were bleeding from where a semi-trained health worker had cut the umbilical cord. I tried to get her into a local health clinic but she was denied. I gave the family USD$20 to bring her to a different private clinic. At that moment, I decided we were going to re-open Refuge Place immediately and offer 100% FREE services until the Ebola crisis ended. I asked the World Health Organization to train our staff on Infection Prevention and Control and build an isolation unit for suspected Ebola cases.
On October 8, 2014 we re-opened our clinic and sent our Community Health Workers to go into the communities to encourage people to come for free clinical services. Less than three days later, we had a pregnant woman walk to our clinic. Our team dressed in their Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and hurriedly assisted her as she give birth to a bouncing baby. We told her all of our services were free. Today, she and her baby are healthy and remain grateful to our team. This scenario would be repeated again and again until our staff performed nearly 180 safe deliveries.
One day, I saw a scene that brought tears of gratitude to my eyes. An old lady had taken her sick grandchild to the clinic. After she was seen by the nurse, she went for her drugs. She asked, “how much is the drugs, how much I need to pay.” The nurse smiled and said, “Everything here is free.” The old lady raised her hands of gratitude to heaven and began to pray for us. The administrator said to me,” This what happens each and every day, people raise their hands in gratitude for us.”