Martha Zarway Of Monrovia: 'I'm A Doctor, So We Can't Run Away' : Goats and Soda The Liberian physician, who operates a clinic in the capital, perseveres in the wake of a colleague's death, possibly from Ebola. She and her staff continue to treat patients.
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Martha Zarway Of Monrovia: 'I'm A Doctor, So We Can't Run Away'

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Martha Zarway Of Monrovia: 'I'm A Doctor, So We Can't Run Away'

Martha Zarway Of Monrovia: 'I'm A Doctor, So We Can't Run Away'

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As part of the fight against Ebola, the U.S. military is setting up a command center in Liberia. That's also one of several countries where the U.S. is sending troops. Liberia could use the help. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton spent time with one doctor at a clinic in Liberia's capital.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ebola virus. Ebola virus.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: In Monrovia these days, all over the city, you hear campaigners trying to raise awareness about Ebola.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in foreign language).

QUIST-ARCTON: They sing, play drums and spread the word about how to prevent the virus. But Dr. Martha Zarway, a private general practitioner on the outskirts of Liberia's capital, says Ebola crept quietly into their midst with fear and stigma attached.

MARTHA ZARWAY: I usually tell my staff, it’s scary - but think about a war and then all the soldiers run away. What will happen to the civilians?

QUIST-ARCTON: I ask whether she feels like an army general who has to marshal and rally her foot soldiers.

ZARWAY: It's double scary, but again you can't run from the field. I mean, I can't change my profession. I'm a doctor. I'm a doctor. So we can't run away.

QUIST-ARCTON: It's not so long ago that Dr. Zarway survived Liberia's civil war, dodging bullets as rival rebel groups fought for control of the country. So how do the war and Ebola compare?

ZARWAY: There are similarities. And yeah, there's a big difference because this one, I think, it's more scary. It seems like you can't hide.

QUIST-ARCTON: You can't hide?

ZARWAY: No, there's no way you can say - we used to say, let me go down to the basement to hide from the gunshots. But this one you can't hide, especially being a medical practitioner. There's no way to hide.

QUIST-ARCTON: Liberians call Ebola the silent enemy, the silent weapon. Dr. Zarway operates from her own clinic, which she set up five years ago in Paynesville - a Monrovia suburb.

ZARWAY: Let's start over. You say you feel feverish.

QUIST-ARCTON: They treat all sorts of patients from pregnant women, to diabetics, to delivering babies. The clinic relocated to have the original premises disinfected after their colleagues died. In fearful times, there were rumors that he died of Ebola, with finger-pointing at Dr. Zarway and her staff. They took all necessary precautions, and most of the staff stayed on.

ZARWAY: So far, only one person is scared to come back to work.

QUIST-ARCTON: Struggling back on its feet, the Ebola outbreak in west Africa has dealt postwar Liberia a body blow. And health workers are bearing the brunt of the battle against the virus. In Liberia alone, at least 85 have died. Dr. Zarway says they wear protective equipment and diplomatically ask delicate questions of their patients to find out whether they've come into contact with or looked after people sick with Ebola. But the toughest part, she says, is refraining from physical contact with others because of her close work with her late colleague.

ZARWAY: Honestly, no touching - even loved ones - like, I tell my little son, no, you can't touch mommy until after the 21 days.

QUIST-ARCTON: That's the three-week incubation period for Ebola for those who might have come into contact with the virus and could test positive. So no touching, no hugging, no kissing.

ZARWAY: During the war, we could hug each other and give some comfort, but now you have to stay distance apart. Ebola you have to be careful.

QUIST-ARCTON: So how does the rest of the family feel?

ZARWAY: To tell you the truth, I haven't told my husband yet. He's in the States. I eventually have to tell them today. It's scary, but it won't change me from being a doctor.

QUIST-ARCTON: Later I ask her how the call went. Dr. Zarway said her husband didn't ask her to quit, and her clinic is still up and running seeing patients. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News.

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