Selfless Devotion Defined Sierra Leone's Dr. Sheik Umar Khan

The remains of Dr. Sheik Umar Khan (Photo courtesy of Hannah Foullah)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014-Sierra Leoneans online have been giving reactions to the official announcement of the death of Dr. Sheik Umar Khan,  the virologist credited with treating more than 100 Ebola victims.

Many commentators consoled Sierra Leoneans and the late doctor's family, and hailed the medic for his selfless devotion.

Reacting to the news on her Facebook wall, Sarah G. Suma wrote:

"Facebook asks, 'What’s on your mind?' Well, my heart is heavy. I never met Dr. Khan, and only heard about him during the Ebola outbreak. However, I closely followed news reports about his tireless efforts to treat Ebola patients while risking his life. We all prayed for a happy ending to this heroic story. What a beautiful story it would have been."

On another wall, Hannah Foullah posted a photo taken of pallbearers in full protective clothing carrying the 43-year-old doctor. Foullah wrote:

"The remains of Dr. Khan. Today you also became a statistic. A victim of the very disease you fought to save your compatriots from. You will continue to live in our memories as a selfless, courageous and brave son of Sierra Leone." 

Dr. Khan is the third doctor to have died of Ebola complications in the Mano River Union. One of Liberia's most high-profile doctors, Samuel Brisbane, died Sunday. A Ugandan doctor working in the country died this month. Since the outbreak in Guinea in February, more than 670 people are reported to have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization put the total number of cases in the three countries over 1,200, it said this week.

On a Sierra Leonean listserv, a number of people paid  tribute to Khan: AOH wrote:

"Really sad. May his soul rest in peace and the family rest in the assurance that in him Sierra Leone knows a son who made the ultimate sacrifice."

Another Sierra Leonean listserv user, "Rodders" echoed his compatriot's remarks, saying:

 "If the President and Kenema authorities could hear me...I humbly suggest that the Kenema Hospital be renamed the Dr Khan Hospital with a statute erected of the late man so he would always be remembered and would always be part of our honour to his role in this war against EBOLA."

Twitter user "Miss Sierra Leone US" wrote:

"This is SO SAD. Dr. Sheik Umar Khan has died. May his soul rest in peace..." 

Another Twitter user called: "Caesar" in Manchester said:

"RIP #Sheik Umar Khan. U sacrificed Ur life for the #fightagainstEbola. RIP my friend."

Four days ago,  Armand Sprecher, the medical adviser to Doctors Without Borders for hemorrhagic fevers, such as Ebola told NPR:

"He took great pleasure in his work and brought an infectious enthusiasm.  He wasn't one of these people who put on airs. You're familiar with all of the character failings of doctors and the stereotypes — he didn't fit into any of those."

"It is a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone as he was the only specialist the country had in viral haemorrhagic fevers," said the chief medical officer, Brima Kargbo, Tuesday.


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