The Forgotten Ebola Hero: Dr Sheik Umar Khan

Doctors and Nurses are part of the professionals striving to make the world a better place. Their sacrifices cannot be repaid. However, we must profoundly seek to elevate their status in society by admonishing their heroics and commitment to humanity.

The unsung hero, Dr Khan.

Sheik Umar Khan was born on the 6th of March, 1975. Until his death, Dr Khan was popularly recognized as the chief Sierra Leonean Doctor attempting to curb the country’s ravaging Ebola Virus Disease in 2014.

Dr Khan studied at the College Of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), University of Sierra Leone. He graduated with a Bachelors in Medicine and a Bachelors in Surgery in 2001. He proceeded to work as tropical medicine and infectious disease physician.

Shortly after his university education, he began working for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation, where he served until 2005. He was then promoted to lead the Lassa fever programme in Kenema. Dr Khan served as head of the Lassa fever programme at Kenema Government Hospital, 300 km (186 miles) east of the capital city of Freetown in an area with the highest rate of Lassa fever in the world. He attributed so much dedication to service that he additionally worked as a physician and a Consultant for the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), specializing in Lassa fever.

Dr Khan together with staff at the Kenema Hospital.

In Kenema, Dr Khan was positioned to work as a Consultant at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown. It was there he worked with senior doctors at the hospital as part of the Ebola response. In January 2014, Dr Khan began teaching at his former university alongside his medical duties at the Kenema Hospital.

THE EBOLA OUTBREAK

The Ebola Virus Disease also called hemorrhagic fever was first discovered in Congo, 1976. It is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. Symptoms include high fever, bleeding, and central nervous system damage. The Ebola Virus Disease dubbed an Epidemic occurred in Sierra Leone, 2014. The disease claimed approximately 3,955 lives, in what was considered to be a quite devastating blow to the socio-economic and health status of the country.

As a frontline worker, Dr Khan was actively involved in the fight against the disease. He usually made regular trips between Kenema and Freetown to brief the Ministry of Health and visit the Connaught Hospital.

Health Workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for those with the disease. Even with the full kit we put on, we are at risk. I’m afraid for my life because I cherish my life. And if you are afraid, then you must take the maximum precautions, stay vigilant, and stay on your guard.

Dr Khan told the BBC in an interview, shortly before he died.

In July 2014, Dr Khan complained of what was thought to be a common cold but later proved to be the Ebola Virus itself. He was later admitted for treatment and observation at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kailahun, one week after diagnosis showed he contracted the disease. Doctors who tended to him were certain of recovery, reporting that he had shown signs of improved health.

However, he sadly passed away on 29th July 2014 (aged 39), a week after being diagnosed.

THE MAN WHO SACRIFICED HIS LIFE FOR OTHERS TO LIVE!

Dr khan was a servant-leader. His indefatigable efforts in caring for the sick was unmatched. He developed a peculiar habit of hugging discharged Ebola patients that were leaving his ward to lift their spirits. His death served as a warning to those who had questioned the existence of the Ebola disease. He was officially certified a national hero by the Ministry of Health and the former President Koroma. Dr Sheik Umar Khan was a Lecturer, Doctor, Humanitarian, Servant to the people, a fearless personality, and an inspiration to all recognized professionals in the medical field.

Remember Dr Khan!

Remember all Doctors and Nurses striving to make the world a better place!

Author: Abu Bakarr Jalloh

Abu Bakarr Jalloh is a Sierra Leonean writer, storyteller, Neo Pan-African and founder of The African Dream media platform. Abu Bakarr Jalloh began telling the stories of change-makers in Africa in 2018 as a writer for Salone Messenger. Mr. Jalloh has worked tirelessly to uncover the stories of change-makers in Sierra Leone and the continent of Africa at large. Due to his passion to tell inspiring and compelling African stories, Mr. Jalloh founded The African Dream, an online media platform that tells inspiring and compelling African stories. Contact email: abubakarrjalloh@theafricandreamsl.com WhatsApp: +23276211583