Hear Me

To the sori-heart people of the world

Aminata Sesay, on life after Ebola
By Mahawa Kamara
9 July 2021
Aminata Sesay, Mount Aureol

That morning — it was a Friday, I remember — my daughter Mariama fell down on the stairs and injured herself. She began to bleed from a cut near her eye.

Before we knew it, someone had called the ambulance. Mariama and my youngest daughter, who slept in the same bed, were taken away by the Ebola emergency team. Mariama was not sick. She had gone through an abortion and so was going through a lot of remorse. That was all. My daughter was not sick.

The next thing I heard was that Mariama was dead. She was declared dead that same afternoon. My youngest daughter, who had a phone with her, told me so when I spoke to her.

The next day I tried to reach my youngest daughter. She did not pick up the phone. Later, I came to know she had also died.

My son and I were quarantined. Maseray, my eldest daughter who lived on Blackhall Road, came to stay with me, as she couldn’t bear to leave me during this time.

But that same day, the Ebola response team came back. They took me, my son, Maseray, and an old woman away. The old woman lived on the fourth floor of our building. She had just come to ask about our daughters.

We were all taken to different treatment centres. I fell ill at the hospital and spent three weeks there with Ebola.

When they released me, I came to know my son had died. I begged people to call Maseray for me. At first they tried to hide, but later they told me the truth: Maseray had died and the other woman, our neighbour, had survived. How could the old woman survive when my young, healthy child — who was not even sick — die?

The government gave me a little money, Le 260,000. To look after my four grandchildren, I began to sell bisap [a local drink made of hibiscus flower]. I was able to make a living initially. But about a year after, I felt my eyes beginning to go.

I was taken to the Connaught Hospital. Then to the Sarolla Eye Clinic. I went to the doctors at Medicine Sans Frontiers and the 34 Military Hospital. All the doctors in these hospitals did their best. But their best was not enough. I ended up blind.

Now that I am blind, I no longer sell bisap. I live on the top floor of this five-storey building. I need to climb some 50 stairs to get to this single room. There are no railings. I cannot climb down the stairs myself. I cannot look after myself. My grandchildren and I survive on the charity of others. My grandchildren do chores for the neighbours and they give us some food.

For more than one year, our landlord has been trying to evict us. He took us to court last year. Luckily, the lawyer who helped us took pity on us. He paid our rent for a year. But that time is coming to an end now.

I don’t know what we can do. All I can do now is to wait. I am waiting for death to come. I am tired of asking the government for help. I have nothing more to say to them. So today I am sending this message to the sori-heart people, the good people, of the world:

I, Aminata Sesay, am a blind Ebola survivor with four grandchildren. We have no one. Our condition is not good. We need help.

Photograph: Mahawa Kamara