Ross Donaldson is one of just a few who have ventured into dark territory of a country ravaged by war to study one of the worlds most deadly diseases. As an untried medical student studying the intersection of global health and communicable disease, Donaldson soon found himself in dangerous Sierra Leone, on the border of war-struck Liberia, where he struggled to control the spread of Lassa Fever. The words, you know Lassa can kill you, dont you? haunted him each day. With the country in complete upheaval and working conditions suffering, he is forced to make life-and-death decisions alone as a never-ending onslaught of contagious patients flood the hospital. Soon however, he is not only fighting for others but himself when he becomes afflicted with a life threatening disease. The Lassa Ward> is more than just an adventure story about the making of a physician; it is a portrait of the Sierra Leone people and the human struggle of those risking their daily comforts and lives to aid them.
July 29th, 2003
I wont be sending you this letter. Some things, you see, are too difficult to share. And, you worry enough already, I know.
I watch them die every day and feel helpless to stop it. Those around me are partially to blame. Yet how can I fault them? The men, women, and children are lost because of them, its true, but also because of me.
Im over my head its as simple as that. I thought I was prepared, but not for this. How could I have been? Its just too much and I feel so alone. There is danger around every corner.
What am I doing here? I can only ask myself. There is so much suffering and I make so little difference. What should we do amidst so much pain? Give up? Give in? Go home?
I grieve for them and for the loss of innocence. These people deserve more than what the world gives. If I succumb, please judge me by my intentions and pardon me for my failures ...
A potent mix of travel memoir, coming-of-age narrative and medical mystery. Donaldson's experiences treating a frighteningly infectious and often deadly hemorrhagic fever, the strength of his West African patients, and his own grave illness bring him to a contemplation of mortality, poverty, civil war, and medicine as it is practiced in the first and third worlds.
(Reviewed by Jo Perry).
Full Review (642 words).
For a short history of Sierra Leone, Africa, see the sidebar to Ancestor Stones, by Aminatta Forna.
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