Ebola Survivors Who Continue To Suffer : Goats and Soda A mysterious set of medical complications plagues some survivors: joint pain, vision loss, rashes. Doctors aren't sure why it's all happening. But they have a name for it: post-Ebola syndrome.
NPR logo

Ebola Survivors Who Continue To Suffer

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/406748691/406938745" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Ebola Survivors Who Continue To Suffer

Ebola Survivors Who Continue To Suffer

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/406748691/406938745" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're also tracking mysterious complications of West Africa's Ebola outbreak. Some survivors face health issues long after the virus seems to be gone. Here's NPR's Jason Beaubien.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Last September, when Moses Lasana was told by his doctors that he was cured of Ebola, it should have been good news. But for Lasana, it was just the start of another chapter in his ongoing Ebola saga. His girlfriend, who was nine months pregnant, had just succumbed to the disease. Several other relatives were dead. As he was preparing to leave an Ebola treatment unit, an ETU, a friend warned him not to return to his rented room in the Virginia section of Monrovia. He'd been evicted and all of his belongings burned in the street.

MOSES LASANA: All my things were burned off, and there was no place for me again.

BEAUBIEN: They burned all of your things?

LASANA: Everything. I was not even there. I was in the ETU at the time when everything was going off.

BEAUBIEN: So he moved back in with his mother and grandmother in another part of the Liberian capital. There were already 20 people living in the small house in the sandy lot shaded by mango trees. The 30-year-old Lasana says his family let him sleep in a room with the younger boys. He was having pain in his back and his legs. He figured the aching would go away as his body recovered from the lengthy illness, but it didn't. In fact, it got worse. The pain now moves around, he says, in ways that don't make sense to him.

LASANA: It comes from your legs to the back, from the back to the legs, to the hands, fingers; pain just comes out any part of the body from one station to another. That's the type of pain I am feeling.

BEAUBIEN: Sometimes his left wrist swells up, and he gets a shooting pain in his hand. He describes it as a needle being driven into his palm. Lasana used to do construction, but he hasn't worked since he left the Ebola treatment unit last fall. He says he can no longer grip a hammer or a saw. His experience is not the norm for Ebola survivors. Must purge the virus from their bodies, slowly regain their strength and that's it. But it's becoming clear that for some Ebola survivors, serious medical problems persist for months.

MONIKA NIEMIEC: A lot of joint pains, a lot of muscle pains, fatigue...

BEAUBIEN: Monika Niemiec is a physician at a clinic Doctors Without Borders has set up in Monrovia just for Ebola survivors. She says they see a wide array of medical issues.

NIEMIEC: ...Menstrual irregularities in the women, various types of skin rashes.

BEAUBIEN: Many of the Ebola survivors who come in have eye problems. Some have cloudy vision; others have pain around the eye socket. Some, Niemiec says, have gone permanently blind.

NIEMIEC: There definitely have been a number of patients who, unfortunately, went untreated in terms of their visual complaints for a long enough period - which could be as short as several weeks, even - that they have ultimately lost their eyesight.

BEAUBIEN: This Doctors Without Borders clinic has seen nearly 200 Ebola survivors since January. The missionary medical charity SIM also treats what's coming to be called post-Ebola syndrome at a separate facility across town. Dr. Niemiec says it's really too early to say definitively what's causing these medical problems. Was it the Ebola virus? Was it the treatment? Are these underlying conditions that were present before the outbreak? How much of this is related to trauma? Survivors have not only stepped back from the brink of death, but also, most have lost loved ones. And many, such as Moses Lasana, still haven't been able to resume their pre-Ebola lives. Dr. Niemiec says all of that needs a lot more study. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Monrovia.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.