Salome Karwah, Ebola fighter named Person of the Year, dies in childbirth

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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A Liberian nursing assistant, who was named alongside her fellow Ebola fighters as TIME magazine’s Person of the Year in 2014, has died during childbirth.

Salome Karwah, who lived near the Roberts International Airport in Liberia, West Africa, died last week following suspected complications from surgery during the birth of her fourth child, Solomon. 

Karwah was an Ebola survivor who had watched many members of her family, including her mother, father, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and a niece, perish when the disease swept through her village in August 2014. After going “out of her mind” and “mad” for “about one week” following the losses, Karwah decided she wanted to help others affected by the disease, and began work at a treatment centre.

“The first day I came here for an interview, I saw people carrying bodies. I started crying. I told my friend, ‘I can’t make it,’” she told TIME in 2014.

“But when I went the next day I said, ‘Sitting and crying won’t help me. So it’s better I go and work. The more I interact with people, the more I will forget about my sad story.’ So I decided to make myself very much busy to help others survive.”

The inspirational nurse, who was believed to be immune to Ebola as it has never infected the same person more than once, worked tirelessly to comfort the sick. In total, the outbreak killed 11,310 people, and Karwa was in the rare position of being able to cuddle sick infants to sleep or spoon-feed elderly patients.

“I can do things that other people can’t," she told TIME, while detailing plans to re-open the medical centre her father had run before he died.

And once Liberia was declared Ebola-free, Karwa married her fiancé, James Harris, and had her third child, Destiny, followed by her fourth child, Solomon.

But tragically she died just days after giving birth to Solomon by cesarian section, when she had unexplained convulsions potentially caused by a complication during surgery. Her sister, Josephine Manley, said Karwa was “stigmatised” by hospital staff who did not want to touch her as she was an Ebola survivor.

“They didn’t want contact with her fluids,” she said. “They all gave her distance. No one would give her an injection.”

“My heart is broken,” Manley added. “The one-year-old, the newborn, they will grow up never remembering their mother's face.”


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter