Thomas Eric Duncan and the Big Picture
By Franklin Ben-Weller II
Thomas Eric Duncan
For several weeks or months now since the news of the outbreak of the deadly EBOLA virus surfaced in West Africa, (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia) many took the news with a "pinch of salt." Not any longer. The seriousness of the situation now is beginning to hit home
EBOLA captured the headlines with the death of its first global victim, Patrick Sawyer. Nigeria took a no nonsense approach to curbing the disease before it became a pandemic. The second global victim has not been so lucky. Thomas Eric Duncan’s visit to the United States created national and world wide panic. His name has become synonymous with Ebola and with everything that can go wrong in a medical facility
WHO IS THOMAS ERIC DUNCAN?
Thomas Eric Duncan was a man, like any other, with dreams of having a family. Liberia’s civil conflict has torn him from his fiancée and his young son. Now, decades later, he was to be reunited with them. But fate dealt him a cruel blow. Just weeks before leaving for the United States, he gave a helping hand to his young pregnant neighbor who was seeking help for her pain. The young lady was rejected at every medical facility because of the EBOLA stigma! Defeated, the young lady and those that had helped transport her, returned to their homes.
The outbreak of the virus caught the Liberian government off guard and ill prepared to combat the deadly disease! In the main time, the government of Liberia hastily put some quasi measures in place to avoid the spread of the epidemic. This included travel regulations, quarantine of some local areas and a "state of emergency" to mention a few.
Among the many regulations by the government to combat the undue spread of the virus, was the "robust" traveling questionnaire given to travelers at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) to verify contact or non-contact with EBOLA patient. Like all other passengers, Thomas Eric Duncan was given one which he did according to authorities at the RIA and later authenticated by government officials.
Upon his arrival in the US, Thomas visited the hospital in Dallas, Texas to inform the authorities of his country of origin. At the medical facility, after going through the necessary protocols and vitals taken including his temperature, the hospital staff found no reason(s) to hospitalize or quarantine him. In view of that, he was given a clean slate and released. After a few days, according to family sources, Thomas began experiencing pain(fever). In light of that, he again decided to pay another visit to the hospital for a proper check-up. This time the result proved positive. He was infected! This immediately prompted the authorities at the hospital to keep and quarantine him.
GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA REACTION
Upon learning of Thomas Eric Duncan's hospitalization in Dallas, the government of Liberia's immediate reaction was that he ( Thomas Eric Duncan) knowingly came in contact with an EBOLA patient and maliciously lied or falsified on the questionnaire developed by the government for people traveling out of the country. As the result of his action or inaction, he was flatly condemned and was pending prosecution upon his return. WOW!!
THE BIG PICTURE
VICTIM: Since the pronouncement by the government of Liberia to prosecute Thomas Eric Duncan and his subsequent demise, I have spent many sleepless nights thinking about him, the Liberia government and the global community in which we live called EARTH! One of those sleepless nights had me perusing my bookshelf for something that would help my insomnia. My attention was captured by a book I had purchased more than a year ago but have not read, a book written by one of the world’s premier physicians who is now director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkin, Ben Carson. His book The Big Picture was my reading of choice. In it, Dr. Carson expounds on the fact that many times we lose the bigger picture because we focus too much on the details. Dr. Carson goes on to write that the bigger picture becomes clearer to us when we see the obstacles in our lives as advantages, removing the victim mentality and focusing on the larger whole.
First, I want to kindly seek the indulgence of those readers who will sparingly read this piece to please forgive me for I neither possess a medical or legal background. With that in mind, I am curious to know whether the Liberian government in its accusation or assertion that Thomas Eric Duncan lied under oath on the questionnaire that they (government of Liberia) have any proof or record of he (Thomas Eric Duncan) was in any way contact with an EBOLA patient and if so, does the government have an autopsy report of said patient? Secondly, if there is such a document(s), while did the government knowingly allow him to travel? Thirdly, did the government had prior knowledge of Patrick Sawyer (government employee) who was in contact with family members that had the virus but yet and still sanctioned his travel? Fourthly, why was Patrick Sawyer not out rightly condemned or prosecuted by the government but rather extended a simple apology to the Nigerian government? How is it that the two cases differ in the way the Liberian government handled the situations? Is the selective justice and selective condemnation due to the fact that as a super power the US deserves to have a victim punished whereas an African country like Nigeria only warrants an apology? Or was Patrick Sawyer too high up on the governmental ladder in Liberia that he was virtually untouchables whereas Thomas Duncan was an average Liberian with no connections in the higher circles. Please help to dissect or understand the similarity and difference between that of Patrick Sawyer and Thomas Eric Duncan? Am I on another planet or is it the same old Liberia where selective justice is still the norm?
Let us not forget who is to be prosecuted. Is it Thomas Eric Duncan for truthfully answering the question formulated by the government of Liberia or the government (by admission) who allowed Duncan to travel knowing that he had the EBOLA virus? This then brings me to my final question which has been tormenting me for the past few weeks:
IS THOMAS ERIC DUNCAN A SCAPEGOAT OR A VICTIM?!!
VICTOR: It is often said "bad things happens for the good." Yes, indeed, my heart goes out to Thomas Eric Duncan, Patrick Sawyer and all those who have succumbed to this deadly epidemic. My prayers to those nurses who are fighting to survive and above all, those who are on the frontlines, risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones, rendering their professional as well as humanitarian services to eradicate this virus called EBOLA. As a Liberian, I salute you and I doff my hat off to you!
But through it all, let us not forget the big picture and lose sight of the war because of the details. The situation of Thomas Eric Duncan has now brought this adversary to the forefront of global attention and has awaken the sleeping giant. In view of the foregoing, the global community has a legal and moral obligation to mobilize all the resource at its command to speedily and expeditiously do everything within its power to nip this deadly epidemic before it engulfs all of us! I am of the strong conviction that if we stop the procrastination we can overcome E B O L A in no time. GOD BLESS YOU AND GOD BLESS THE WORLD.