Who Decides Who Lives and Who Dies When an Ebola Outbreak Creates Hysteria?

A Maryland man dies days before flights are chartered to pick up two Ebola victims, and his family wants answers. 

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Nathaniel Dennis in Liberia in 2012

Courtesy of Natasha Dennis

Two Americans with Ebola have been flown in from Liberia over the past week and treated with a “secret serum” in the hopes of helping them successfully combat the deadly virus.

However, Ebola has already taken its first American victim.

To be fair, 24-year-old Nathaniel Dennis did not have Ebola, but the fear inflamed by the rapidly spreading disease that has already killed more than 800 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea certainly contributed to his death, his older sister, Natasha Dennis, told The Root.

“The first case of Ebola was in February, March. Why wasn’t it more contained then? What happened to the education of the people to make it get to this point right now? My brother, he’s still a victim of Ebola, but he’s a victim of the hysteria it caused,” says Dennis, 27, who lives in California.

It all started following a family vacation to Liberia, where the siblings’ mother, Precious Dennis, lives as an educator. Nathaniel decided to stay in Liberia once the trip was over when the music lover found a job at a local radio station. After about a month, on July 24, his mother awoke to find her youngest son comatose on his bedroom floor, his body stiff and his eyes rolled back, Natasha Dennis said. His room was in disarray.

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Precious Dennis and her son Nathaniel Dennis in Liberia in 2012

Courtesy of Natasha Dennis

“That’s when the Ebola outbreak started getting really big; of course, any time anyone’s sick they have to confirm that it’s not Ebola, so they put him in quarantine right away and he was there for three days just being treated for Ebola. All his tests came back negative,” Dennis explains. “So at this point we’re calling the embassy, we’re trying to get him out, everyone’s telling me that they’re not flying into Liberia at this time, no one can help us, there’s nothing they can do, things like that.”

When Nathaniel Dennis was released from quarantine, the family attempted to get him evacuated to Ghana to receive the treatment he needed—which was just a respirator and a dialysis machine. However, Ghana wouldn’t let him in, given the Ebola scare and having closed its borders to Liberia.

“My poor brother," Dennis says. “He lasted a week, and at the end, he just needed a ventilator to keep him breathing, to help him, and they didn’t have that.”

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Nathaniel Dennis and Natasha Dennis in Liberia in June 2014

Courtesy of Natasha Dennis

Nathaniel Dennis died on July 30, with a doctor telling the family that the cause was kidney failure. The family’s frustration did not end there, however.

“What we still don’t understand is that the next day after my brother passed, they sent a plane to go get these doctors that do have Ebola, and I think that’s the most frustrating part for us. We can’t understand,” the grieving big sister tells The Root.