Finding Meaning in Pandemic
Finding Meaning in Pandemic

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? 

EKA TASK FORCE

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.

Etagegn My name is Etagegn Tessema. I was born in Lasta, Wollo. I am 50 years old, married and a mother of one. To support my husband and my son, I’d walk from Gabriel where I live, all the way to Ayat and work as a day laborer. I did this for 12 years. And now I’ve been working as a janitor at this hospital for the past year. When the pandemic came, I was the only one who supported my family so I did not hesitate to continue working. I’d go back home after work and my good neighbors and friends wouldn’t face me. But I don’t have a choice but to keep at my job. I ask for God to say this is enough so my neighbors and I could go back to our old friendship.
Mare My name is Mare Wale. I was born and raised in southern Gonder. I am 50 years old. I am married. I have 7 children. My husband can’t work because of an injury to his hand so I’m the only one who supports the family. When the hospital where I worked as a janitor was chosen to give service during the pandemic, I didn’t have a choice but to stay and work. I ask for God to put things back as they were.
Demoz I worked at the Eka Hospital before Corona. I have 3 kids. I live with my husband. I have high blood pressure, but I can’t afford to stop working. I’ve given the responsibility to God. We will be tested under the pressure until this is over. We’re not going anywhere
Cleaning team getting donned for ICU to treat the patient's wastes and disposals.

Janitors
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.

Cleaners in action. disposing wastes using biohazard bags
cleaning team with their tools in hand to provide clean and safe CoViD center
Cleaners after collecting wastes hand overing it for permanent disposal to the INCINERATING TEAM
Dr. Rediet, One time, I was doing rounds with the doctors and transferring patients. After we were done, we heard the patients asking for help. I was doffing. I’d almost gotten my apron off. We ran to the patients and realized Ato Tesfaye did not have a pulse, no cardiac beat, no radial pulseI fixed the bed for him and we started doing CPR. As this was an emergency, we were required to do CPR on a salvageable patient.I was the one still wearing full protective gear so it was okay for me to give CPR. We did two cycles of chest compression and we were able to bring him back. We were lucky because we heard the call for help.
Dr. Hiruy We are in a battle field, fighting like soldiers. Sacrificing our lives for the great people of Ethiopia. We believe in God. We will defeat the pandemic.
ICU TEAM closely following a CoViD 19 patient in the ICU.
Ato Tesfaye , after their recovery from the ICU having a close follow up from their caregivers
Ato Tesfaye and team of Health workers celebrating life and survival after an ICU admission at Eka Kotebe CoViD19 treatment center
Ato Tesfaye discharged from the treatment center after staying in the ICU and waiting for the ambulance to take them home.
Ato Tesfaye waving their goodbye to their caregivers in the Ambulance Eka kotebe hospital
Workneh I am Workneh Hora. I am a father of two. I’ve fought in the Ethio-Eritrean war. At this time, I’m doing my national duty as a Sprayer, and Hospital Guard. I also help bury those who’ve died in the pandemic. I wasn’t scared at all when I started the job. Spraying chemicals is nothing. I’ve gone through wars with bullets. So, I am not at all afraid of death.
Paulos My name is Paulos Seid. I was born and raised in a town called Elebabor, Gore. I am 36 years old. I am married and a father of a son and twin daughters. I’d worked at Kotebe hospital as a security guard for 5 months when the coronavirus pandemic was reported in our country. During the preparations to battle the virus, there was a big shortage of manpower so I was asked to carry the responsibility of “sprayer.” I did not hesitate. Every time I do the job, I feel that I’m eradicating the virus so I feel proud. But this job has cost me some things. Friends who would normally join me for lunch have come to hate me. They beg me in God’s name not to go near them. It breaks my heart but the work I do gives me a sense of purpose. I can’t wait for all this to end so I can see my children.
Paulos taking a cab from the hospital to his house to visit his family
Paulos playing with his wife and twin kids with social distance
Paulos departing his family after his visit.
After death of one of covid 19 patient being sprayed to minimize spread of infection and possible transmission
Ato Workeneh Having coffee with his sister in coffee shop.
Spray men in action. Disinfecting every ward in the hospital. The hospital's every corner is sprayed twice per day
Spray men disinfecting the ambulance after bringing a patient to EKA CoViD 19 Center
Spray man disinfecting health workers coming out of the center after give care for covid 19 patients.
Spray man fumigating the Tomb site after burial of a deceased CoViD 19 patient.
Spray man disinfecting a recovered patient upon discharge.
Health professional being sprayed after taking care of patients in the ICU.
Makeda Worst day so far was when we lost our first patient. I love my mother. I saw my mother in W/ro Almaz every time I went into the ICU. Mothers are leaving their children behind, families are scattering because of this, you can’t bury your dead. We’re losing our joy. From day one, when I think of CoronaVirus, I think of my family, of people I love. It makes me think I have no guarantee that my mother will not be in this hospital bed next. Or my friends. It’s very painful. This might be the first time in my life I thought about my country But I will continue to serve until my last minute alive because I am here for a reason. Makeda, Emergency Medicine and Critical Care Nurse (MSc.)
Muluken I left my wife to serve here. We talk on the phone and sometimes we talk face to face but at a distance. This has made me realize that you can do things you didn’t think you could. We’re doing our professional duty fighting this. We’re ready to give our lives. I am 29 years old. I volunteered to work against this pandemic.
Melat When I see people who catch the virus and come from different places and different lives, different responsibilities; people who come from comfort; afraid, stressed, defeated and separated from those they love, alone. When I see and hear the strain it’s created on their families, I get disturbed. There are many situations where I cried. To be honest, I would see such chaos in between survival and death. Like a thick rope worn away and held together by a string. That string is hope. Feeling like it’s over and they’ll die when the pain comes and then again hoping to recover when they feel a bit better. I hate living watching this anxiety. But as a health soldier, I will proudly remember the day I decided to fight this enemy of my people, the day I decided to ache and die with them.
Martha Helping people makes me happy. That’s why I became a nurse. I feel like I’m closer to God when I help those in need. I believe that God has plans for everyone and this was his plan for me. Being a nurse is more than being a mother or sister and I’m happy to make the slightest influence doing this. Being a nurse was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Sr Martha addressing her prayers at one of the Orthodox church in front of Eka Kotebe Hospital.
Sr Martha knelt down praying
Sr Martha knelt down praying
Sr Martha knelt down praying
One of the CoViD 19 patient getting accepted at the hospital for admission.
After escorting a patient at a Covid center with ambulance the vehicle being sprayed with spray man.
The first deceased CoViD 19 patient in the Morgue waiting for burial.
The first CoViD 19 deceased patient getting ready for burial .
Dead body handlers carrying the first deceased patient to the ambulance to the ambulance for burial.
The first CoViD 19 deceased patient getting in the ambulance for burial.
The first CoViD 19 deceased patient being escorted to the grave yard with ambulance and federal police.
CoViD 19 patient getting buried at the burial site prepared for covid 19 deceased patient with all the precautionary infection prevention method
After the first death of a CoViD 19 patient the dead body was buried at the burial site prepared for CoViD- 19 patient.
Dr Tigist Fisshea, she is the surgeon who performed the first successful surgery on a CoViD 19 positive patient at Eka Kotebe Covid 19 treatment center.
Getting stitched after laparotomy was done for appendicieal abscess after being admitted for CoViD 19 at Eka Covid center
Incinerator men burning hospital waste to prevent community infection spread

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.

Netsanet Drawing
Abebech, To be honest, I thought about quitting my job when the pandemic came. But a speech made by our Prime Minister at one point really stayed with me and eliminated the fear I had. It gave me courage. And furthermore, my mother who lives with me became my bravery. The first day was challenging. When I was changing to go into the patient room, my knees shook and I felt my heart might betray me. But once I went in and started doing my job, the fear left. I have a habit of always bowing in greeting to the patients. Only God knows the end of this pandemic. But even if God forbid, it got out of control, I have made a promise that I would not quit my job.
Mare, I am 50 years old. I am married. I have 7 children. My husband can’t work because of an injury to his hand so I’m the only one who supports the family. When the hospital where I worked as a janitor was chosen to give service during the pandemic, I didn’t have a choice but to stay and work. I ask for God to put things back as they were
Jerry, It feels like a dream. I’ve never considered my family and I would face this kind of challenge. But I’ve left my three children and especially my breastfeeding infant with their father and come here to the hospital. I don’t even know when this pandemic will vanish from this country so I can see my children again. I worry about this a lot. I want to cry but I don’t want my friends to see that so I try my best to appear strong. God forbid, if I caught the disease and something worse happened, I’d hate to think about what will happen to my husband and my kids. My husband helps and supports me. But when I get stressed he says, “Just leave it and come home. We’ll accept whatever comes together. I can’t leave if something happened to you. Who will raise the kids? You should put your family first.” But doing that will be treason on my profession, my country and myself. I consider that to be theft. I don’t know. I just worry. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Yonas, I am happy that i am one of the first few physicians who stepped up to help my country to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. My forefathers defeated invaders and reserved this country for us, I am fighting this pandemic to reserve my country for the next generation.
Recovered patients getting discharged and health professionals celebrating their departure.
Covid 19 patients having small talks in their ward at Eka Covid center
Patients having their snacks at the terrace at Eka CoViD 19 treatment center.
One of the Covid 19 patient getting an X -RAY to evaluate the status of the Lungs.
An ICU patient confirmed with CoViD 19 being transferred from Black lion Hospital to Eka CoViD-19 treatment Center.
Critical CoViD 19 patient being transferred to an ambulance
CoViD 19 patient refusing to get admitted to the hospital
Dr. Sara, My first duty was the scariest moment of my life. My family is always reminding me of the Hippocratic oath I made at my graduation. They make me feel like I am a soldier in a war. On top of this the unity among colleagues for a common goal was very inspiring. During the first few days of my patient rounds, my head was full of questions in terms of how much time I needed to spend with my patients while keeping myself safe. Then one night I tried to put myself in their shoes and their attendants. How painful it could be for someone to be in a hospital bed without talking to their loved ones, not getting emotional support from family and friends and God forbid, die without even saying goodbye.
Dr. Kalkidan, I was the first person to admit the first Covid-19 positive patient from Japan.It was sudden. We weren’t really expecting patients. We were told to prepare the facility. I didn’t bring a change of clothes. I came to do the routine drills. I was terrified. I used to say I wasn’t scared, but I thought to myself about how I must love my life. we had to take his blood ourselves which meant we had to touch him. I was uncomfortable leaving because the man kept coughing constantly and saying he was suffocating. I wanted to auscultate but that was not an option. I was just scared. I talked to friends I’d left on bad notes. I couldn’t talk to my mom. I only talked to my sister. All the regrets and mistakes in life come rushing at you in times like this. I have pre existing issues with depression and anxiety and it took a lot for me to be back here. I was very upset. I’m not saying we have to be reckless, but I think we need to have some faith. I don’t think we needed to be that daunted. I think we exaggerated too much going in at first. I mean God works here too, right? I don’t think we needed to be that stressed. I think we’ve compromised a lot out of fear.
Dr. Addis, There are patients that can identify us by our voices. This has a tremendous psychological impact on them and most of them need psychological support. I usually spend time talking to them and discussing their concerns. There is a mother with her baby. Imagine how difficult this situation could be. Fortunately, she is strong. She is doing really well. I usually visit them and enjoy playing with the adorable baby. It’s nice to see the smile on his cute face. I wish them quick recovery.
Barok a 9 month old boy who was admitted to Eka treatment after being diagnosed with CoViD 19.
Dr Kalkidan communicating her colleagues from outside the hospital about the status of the patients to record on their charts.
Dr Sara escorting her recovered patient to his family carrying his carry on bags.
Baby Eskedar being followed in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after he was born by ceserean section from a mother of CoViD 19 confirmed patient
Dr. Abebaw He silenced all the earth while sitting on His throne, and gave as a purpose to care for the sicken, to be part of this mighty deed, missing a fiancée or family, is worth the sacrifice, indeed. “The technical information and application advice given in this BASF publication
Giving IV fluid push for Covid patient admitted in the ICU to revive the patient from a shock state
Admitting CoViD 19 patients who came from prison after getting infected with the virus
morgue men
morgue men
Family members expressing unimaginable loss of their beloved
Spray men and discharged patients expressing their warm felt gratitude for the service they got from the treatment center
Spray men and discharged patients expressing their warm felt gratitude for the service they got from the treatment center
Taking the vital sign and giving health education for one the patient admitted at Eka Kotebe Treatment center
Taking the vital sign and giving health education for one the patient admitted at Eka Kotebe Treatment center
An 86 years old CoViD 19 patient being clerked by Health care workers at Eka Treatment center.
Chinese patients leaving the treatment center after successful recovery from CoViD 19
A health professional getting donned to enter the treatment center to attend patients
Health workers getting doffed and cleaned to avoid bringing out the virus out of the hospitals building.
Health workers getting doffed and cleaned to avoid bringing out the virus out of the hospitals building.
Staffs At Eka praying and being thankful to their GOD for having yet another blessed day to spend.
Staffs At Eka praying and being thankful to their GOD for having yet another blessed day to spend.
Burial in action. After a severe CoViD 19 victim patient deceased and being buried at the graveyard
preparing for transporting a deceased CoViD 19 victim from the hospital to the burial site
The graveyard prepared for a patient who lost their life for CoViD being sprayed to minimize the spread of infection
Burial of his beloved father who was a victim of the deadly virus CoViD 19
Families Attending the funeral of one of the patient deceased with CoViD 19
Paramedics transferring CoViD 19 patients to the Treatment center.
Physicians at their workstation recording and making treatment plan for their CoViD 19 patients
Evaluating the Chest X Ray of one of a CoViD 19 patient at the work station
Following on Global update of the pandemic while working at the workstation of health workers
Health professionals communicating their colleagues about their patients clinical status via phone.
Spray men spraying the hospitals every corner to minimize spread of infection.
Health care professionals getting into the treatment center.