The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Ethiopia on 13th of March where a team of first responders took in a 48-year-old Japanese man.
Having never seen anything like this in their lifetime, they did not know what to prepare for and thus started their new normal of battling the Corona Virus in Ethiopia.
Doctors, nurses, janitors, security guards, drivers donned hats they’ve never expected to uphold and they worked to make up this moving machine at the cost of their health, their families, their reputations and of course, their lives.
Patients find themselves uprooted from their normal day to day and into this fight for their lives where they often contemplate existential matters and try their best to hold on to hope despite everything.Patients and medical personnel alike try to find comfort in one another during this trying time, making family of one another as they leave their real families behind for their own safety.
All sense of purpose evaporates in these rooms where terrified patients and helpless doctors try to save the day. No one knows where this will go and yet they will all tell you, as if they’d previously practiced together, that they must be there for a reason. And they try their best to make it a worthwhile reason.
These are the heroes of the pandemic.
Everything started with questions.
Who are we? How do we respond to difficult situations in life? How do people respond to death? What do people wish to see when they are sick and when they think that they could die? How do dying people define life, time, family, friends, and healing? What would people who thought they would die but did not, do differently if they survived sickness?
Then questions like: What can I do to help in this pandemic?
I am not a health professional, but I have my camera in my hands and many questions in my heart. I have always been asking the above questions, and as an image artist, I have always been trying to answer them.
When I first heard about the first case in my country, I wanted to help. I took my equipment, went to the market, and got a military green backdrop. I decided to capture the stories of patients in the hospitals and the health workers who are lined up to fight for their country, and family as frontlines.
I interviewed a lot of people, I made great friends. I lived at the hospital, sleeping on a mattress. I built my studio on the 3rd floor and captured the great warriors. Their stories helped me realize many things.
Some of the stories I heard made me appreciate what I have; they also helped me understand the meaning of life, family, friends, time, money, etc.
My physician friends taught me what it means to be unable to help while you are willing to do everything in your power. My health professionals taught me to laugh with their victories and to cry with their tragedies.
I am grateful for the decision I made. COVID-19 introduced me to Heroes. I realized for the first time that we live among them. I saw heroes in the dying, the survivors, and the healthcare workers.
After 12 weeks of staying in the hospital, I decided to take the test myself. When I found out that I had the infection, I started asking those same questions to myself. Once again, I fell in love with life itself. I missed my family.
One day, I went live on Instagram live and connected my new friends in the hospital with my friends from all over the world and shared our learning. Well, I am still alive. A part of my heart still says, what if you die? Sure, what if I die? Is my life more precious than that of the others who have died? What would I do differently if I survived it?
In the midst of panic and world struggle emerges a bright force to reckon with. Eka Kotebe Hospital was one of the new and underused hospitals in Addis Ababa with brave hearted and keen minded staffs. Our hospital took a mission to fight CoViD- 19 unreservedly , despite every limitations anticipated in failing and surrendering to the pandemic in front of it.
It was late January in a middle of the day where a phone call came from the Ministry of health to notify a meeting that will be held regarding the emerging pandemic. one of our Phycisian leading the hospital’s triage unit was assigned to participate the meeting, rather “the wake up call” as she called it. Every hospital was notified to prepare a screening area and form a task force which will particularly involve in managing the unfolding pandemic. But the hospitals management came to realize this pandemic will hit us hard and has to prepare for it 10 steps ahead and also seize this as an opportunity for the stranded hospital to come to the light.
You might be wondering what it means when i say stranded and underused so let me clarify a little bit about our hospital. Eka hospital was opened for work 3 years back under the management of one of the prestigious psychiatric center St Amanuel Mental specialized Hospital. By “under” it means the hospital has no legitimate mandate and legal ground to function on its own. Hospital Management with our limping system is difficult as its own let alone by delegation. Three excruciating and difficult years passed after the opening of the hospital giving psychiatric service and other medical services(surgical, pediatric, ophatmology, gynecologic ,dental, and Internal medicine) tagging along with it. Imagine running a hospital with out a designated finance, general service, procurment and HR unit; it was like “a hospital which was in a foster care”.
It was under these circumstances where the hospital accepted to designate its institution as one of the foremost treatment center for CoVID patients and started planning and work tirelessly to bring out the potential this hospital can bring to the community. The task force goes through tedious days and sleepless nights in preparation of the hospital and staffs to challenge and defeat the pandemic. The task force consisted of individuals who were young and energetic setting their utmost ambitions to redesign the hospital’s setup and sketch sustainable system.
The hospital wastes has to be treated just like the patients and the cleaning ladies plays the crucial role in managing and removal of the
infectious wastes. These are our heroes and makes the hospital and the world as clean as possible.
My name is Netsanet. I am 14 years old. I grew up in a small town called Ad-goshu in Humera. I have 5, 8 and 9 year-old sisters. I lost my father to an illness I don’t even remember when I was 6 years old. Because of this, the responsibility of taking care of the family fell on my mother’s shoulders. The poverty we used to fear in others slowly crept into our home. Everything we were used to, vanished. We didn’t have anything to wear or eat. It was hard for my mother to see us this way so she tried every option she could find to make life like it used to be. But nothing she tried worked. In the end she had to work as a maid. But let alone take us back to our previous life, the small money she earned was barely enough for our food. My sister and I weren’t old enough to work but we set our studies aside and joined our mother. We wanted to work in the same household but the nature of the work wouldn’t allow it so my 8 year old sister became a baby sister and I became a maid in another home. We worked separately for four months. We still weren’t able to defeat our hand-to-mouth way of life so I took what I’d saved and told my mom I was thinking of moving to Addis Abeba. She couldn’t bear it but she agreed. People my mother knew collected me in Addis Abeba and took to me to work at a place they’d prepared. I was hopeful again so I started to work. Only a month later, I started coughing for some reason. My employers had me tested for the coronavirus and I was found to be positive. I was forced to come to this center. I saw the hope I held when I left my country, darken. I thought of my poor mother and it felt like I just won’t ever go back. My spirit broke. I cried day and night. Other patients and hospital personnel who saw this made sure to stay by my side to get me out of this depression. They provided me with everything I needed and they consoled me. The last two tests I’ve taken show that I’m recovering from the virus. I’ve been found negative. So I’m tremendously happy. Before, when people asked me what I wanted to become, I would say I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a soldier to defend my country. But now I’ve closely seen people who serve their countries no less than soldiers do. I believe that now I want to get out of here, continue with my studies and become a doctor.