An ‘Overhappy’ Survivor, A Guarded Forecast: Reporting On Ebola
NPR’s Jason Beaubien is in Sierra Leone, covering the Ebola outbreak that began in March in Guinea and has spread to neighboring countries. When we spoke Friday, he had an inspirational story to share.
Between the plane shot down in Ukraine and the war in Gaza, this has been a sad week for the world. How are things in Sierra Leone?
I have some good news for you. Today I was at that corner of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the first cases of Ebola [were reported]. I was following around MSF [Doctors Without Borders]. They’re training volunteers to explain to the community what causes Ebola, what the symptoms are, how to protect yourself.
We’re in this meeting with probably three dozen people, and this guy walks in. He is the former health officer from the region called Koindu, which sits right up against the [Guinea] border. And he got Ebola.
He had just gotten out of the treatment center this week. He walked in to this hero’s welcome; everyone started cheering and clapping. It was like he was taking the stage in The Price Is Right. He came running up to the front of the room, declaring that he’s free [of Ebola] and that he survived. It was this incredibly joyful moment.
What was his name, and how did he look?
He’s Saidu Kanneh, and he’s about 40 years old. He just had this spring in his step, this incredible smile across his face. He was full of energy. He was planning to spread the word that you can survive this. He refers to himself as “overhappy.”
Does he know how he was infected?
He was one of the first medical workers dealing with cases. He said he was working with this woman who had Ebola. He was wearing rubber gloves, but there was a gap between the gloves and his shirt. He believes that’s how it happened.
How long was he ill?
He spent 12 days in the treatment center in Kailahun and got out this week, completely cured. MSF people tell me no virus could be detected in him anymore.
Photo: Saidu Kanneh speaks to the community in Koindu, Sierra Leone, about surviving Ebola. He spent 12 days in a treatment center and was released this week. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)