BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Global crisis. Several African nations declare public health emergencies as the deadly Ebola outbreak spreads. It’s the largest outbreak on record, killing 729 people.
Mike Hellgren has the story of a young man from Maryland who became a victim of the Ebola panic while visiting Africa.
He was from Howard County, visiting Liberia. He never had Ebola–several tests proved that–but he came down with another serious illness–possibly an infection–and authorities refused to let him leave the country for better treatment because of the Ebola fears, so he died there.
Nathaniel Dennis was a fighter from the start. Born premature, he battled health problems, yet was always optimistic. But his life ended at just 24-years-old during a visit to Liberia to see his mom.
“He was so ambitious. I’m just sad he he never got any chance to really live out his dreams,” said Norwood Dennis, brother.
It coincided with the largest Ebola outbreak in history. Dennis got sick–very sick. Two tests though showed he never had Ebola. But in the panic sweeping the country, he was quarantined and his brother says kept from medical care.
“He was an American citizen and it’s like nobody even tried to help him out,” said Dennis.
“It is outrageous to me. It’s very sad to me that we had to tell them over and over he’s an American citizen,” he continued. “He was in a coma and we couldn’t get anybody to try and save his life.”
His brother, who visited Liberia just weeks before, remembers their final conversation.
“I told him, ‘I don’t say it enough, but I do love you and I can’t wait to see you,'” he said. “I’m glad I got to say that… that I’m glad he knows I do love him.”
Fear has gripped western Africa. Already, the U.S. is removing Peace Corps volunteers. An American doctor has died and two American missionaries are fighting for their lives.
“They’re weak, but yet they’re strong in spirit,” said missionary Bruce Johnson.
For the Dennis family, another battle lies ahead. They are fighting to get Nathaniel’s body home to Maryland. A victory means closure that their fighter gets to rest in peace.
“Does anybody want to risk taking him back and think that they might bring back a virus that he never even had?” said Dennis. “I don’t want anyone else to feel how I feel now.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk for an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is rare. The two Americans with Ebola could soon be headed back to the United States via private transport.
Dennis’ family notes that was an opportunity that was never afforded to Nathaniel.
To help the family raise money to bring Nathaniel’s remains home, click here.
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