Mothers will do anything for their children. We know you know this, but Dedee’s story has helped us understand this fact more deeply than ever before.
“Life was normal.”
The Urey family lives next door to our staff house in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Monrovia. Before Ebola, Dedee, her husband, and their five children lived happily.
“Life was normal. Every day, I would take care of the house and family while my husband went to work,” Dedee said. She and her husband were well respected in the community and they spent time together every evening in the yard with their neighbors.
Then Ebola hit. Slowly at first, it seemed, then all at once. Ambulances started running 24/7 and sirens blared their ominous warnings all through the night. Everyone was terrified. When her family got sick, nobody knew what to do. Her husband got sick first, at a time when the Liberian healthcare system was completely overwhelmed. Even worse, Dedee, her husband, and their five children all shared one room. Dedee immediately called an ambulance, but it never came.
“He got serious and we put plastic on our hands and put him in the wheelbarrow and took him to JFK [hospital] but before reaching, he died. After my husband died, my four children and myself got sick and they took us to Island Clinic, and my baby died,” Dedee said.
Meeting More Than Me
It was after her husband died that Katie and More Than Me met Dedee and her family, who were neighbors of the MTM staff house. Our ambulance was already running in West Point, so it was easy to expand our service to our Capital Hill neighbors.
“The MTM ambulance took me and my entire family to the ETU once we got sick, and even provided juice and toys to my children while they were in the ETU,” Dedee explained. Miatta, Dedee’s daughter, was the only child not to get sick when the rest of the family did.
No one wanted to take Miatta in because she could show Ebola symptoms at any moment. So we hired a caretaker and took her in at our interim care center, HOPE21, hoping that she wouldn’t show symptoms. But two days later, she did. Luckily we caught the symptoms early and transferred her to the Island Clinic Treatment Unit where the rest of her family was.
“I told her, I can’t. I asked her what family would do it, but she said they all abandoned her. I told her if that happens, I will find the best home ever for her children and make sure they are treated very well. I told her if she and her kids live, I’ll get them a special gift, anything they want. Hope helps people live,” Katie said.
Hoping for a Miracle
Amazingly, Dedee and her three sons SURVIVED Ebola. (!!!)
“I’m so happy my daughter is out today; I never thought this day would come. I lost my baby and I could not bear the thought of losing Miatta, who was my only girl left,” Dedee said.
Through all she has lost, Dedee is BEYOND GRATEFUL that her other children survived. Dedee lives for her children, and she’s incredibly happy that she gets to see them every day. She even feels proud that she and her children were able to beat a disease that killed so many people.
“My children don’t realize how fortunate they are, they still think they just got sick and went to the hospital.”
Like many survivors, Dedee and her family came back to a very different life. Possessions had to be destroyed for safety reasons, and without Dedee’s husband, the family had zero income to support themselves. More Than Me provided clothing and food to start replacing what they’d lost. We also gave the kids that gift we’d promised them.
Though her kids were happy (who doesn’t love bikes?), Dedee still desperately needed a job. We helped her sell coal in the market and gave her a job taking care of the HOPE21 Guest House for some time. But once the MTM Academy reopened, we found the PERFECT FIT for Dedee to be involved at the school: as a security guard! And not just any security guard, but as our first-ever FEMALE security guard. Pretty cool.
“This job makes me happy and gives me the chance to work with MTM as a part of the family,” Dedee said. It also allows Dedee to make money for school fees for her other children and to feel useful in a time of stigma as a survivor.
Back in School!
And Miatta is healthier than ever and attends school at the MTM Academy! She’s one of 30+ new students who’ve been directly affected by Ebola.
“Miatta is so very excited every morning to go to school, she even wants to go on Saturdays and Sundays! The school she went to last year did nothing to capture Miatta’s interest, but MTM has really changed Miatta for the better,” Dedee explained.
“I thank God every day for my children. They are my source of strength and happiness in life,” Dedee said. “I am so grateful to the MTM organization and all that they have done for me. MTM saved us and continues to save us every day.”