ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Working in an Ebola ward takes an emotional toll. Doctors and nurses often grow close to the people they look after, only to see them die. Caregivers also develop special bonds with patients who survive. We have a story of one nurse in Sierra Leone and her patient, a 3-year-old boy. Here's NPR's Anders Kelto.
ANDERS KELTO, BYLINE: Nurse Isata Kallon remembers the day when 3-year-old Ibrahim arrived at her Ebola ward in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone. He was with his mom and two older brothers, ages 5 and 8. She says they were all sick, and little Ibrahim was vomiting constantly.
ISATA KALLON: He was very ill - wasn't even thinking that he was going to survive.
KELTO: Kallon spent much of the next week caring for the family inside the Ebola ward, which is basically a big white tent outside the main hospital. And when she would go into the ward, she would always find young Ibrahim in a different place.
KALLON: Sometimes we meet him lying down on the sheets of other patients.
KELTO: He would just climb into bed with other patients?
KALLON: Yes, so I have to take him, give him a bath, change him.
KELTO: Put him back in his bed?
KELTO: Meanwhile, his mother's health started getting worse. She began to lose a lot of fluids. Then, one day, the nurses found her dead. Ibrahim and his brothers were alive in their beds just a few feet away. Kallon continued to care for the boys in the coming days, and they slowly got better. Then, roughly three weeks after they were first admitted, the boys were declared Ebola free.
KALLON: Now, we thank God our efforts did not went in vain.
KELTO: Their dad didn't get sick and is still alive, but he lives 130 miles away and hasn't been able to pick the boys up. So they've just been staying here at the hospital. Nurse Kallon says little Ibrahim, the three-year-old, has gotten kind of attached to her. He often comes by the nursing station to say hi.
KALLON: He call, (Foreign language spoken). (Laughter) Make like this to me.
KELTO: He blows a kiss to you?
KELTO: Then, not too long ago, young Ibrahim began making a rather bold statement to Kallon, who's in her 30's.
KALLON: He wants me to be his wife.
KELTO: He wants you to be his wife?
KELTO: What do you say when he says he wants you to be his wife?
KALLON: I accepted. (Laughter).
She walks me over to the building where Ibrahim and his brothers are staying. It's an old abandoned wing of the hospital with metal bars over the windows. About 30 other Ebola survivors are living here, also waiting to go home. And standing outside is a young boy, in nothing but flip-flops and a black blazer.
What's your name?
KELTO: Ibrahim? My translator helps me ask Ibrahim the next question. I point at the nurse, Kallon.
And who is this?
IBRAHIM: (Through translator) She's my wife.
KELTO: Ibrahim doesn't have much else to say after that, so he just goes back to playing with his brothers. The hospital says the boys will soon be transported home to their dad. Nurse Kallon says she's happy they'll be reunited, but she admits it'll be kind of hard to see little Ibrahim go.
KALLON: I'm going to miss his presence because he's my husband now (laughter).
KELTO: Anders Kelto, NPR News.
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