SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
The struggle for people who survive Ebola doesn't necessarily end if and when they get healthy. Many survivors have lost family members. Some face discrimination, and then some can't even get out of the hospital where they were treated.
NPR's Anders Kelto met some survivors close to the heart of the outbreak in Sierra Leone.
ANDERS KELTO, BYLINE: In the eastern city of Kenema, a guy named Kitibe is sitting on a small rug in a hospital break room. There's a fan oscillating in the corner and a TV playing a soap opera. Kitibe has just recovered from Ebola. He says it was an extremely painful experience.
KITIBE: (Through translator) I was tormented when I was in the Ebola ward. Pain - pain within my body, yes. See, I have come safe and sound. God healed me.
KELTO: God healed you.
KELTO: He's here for a counseling session about life after Ebola. A social worker named Gladys Gassama comes over to talk to him.
GLADYS GASSAMA: (Foreign language spoken).
KELTO: She says, people were suspicious when you got sick, pointing fingers at you and discussing what's wrong with you.
GASSAMA: (Foreign language spoken).
KELTO: So when you get home, she says, try to educate people about Ebola. And don't act like you're contagious because they might think that you are.
KELTO: Another counselor named Elizabeth Boakarie says many Ebola survivors go home and are told, you were sick - you can't get water from this tap, or don't sell your food in our market. So every night there are messages on the radio in Sierra Leone telling people not to shun survivors.
ELIZABETH BOAKARIE: So we are over the radio telling the people to stop that. Every night we go over the radio to tell people.
KELTO: When people are discharged from this Ebola ward, they're also given food and clothes and even a bed mattress because most of their possessions were burned when they were diagnosed. Kitibe, the guy being released today, says he's ready to get out of here and he's looking forward to joking around with his friends.
KITIBE: We all live and crack jokes.
KELTO: But, just as he's getting ready to go, a nurse comes over and asks to speak with me privately. He says, when you're interviewing Kitibe, don't get too close to him. We think he has tuberculosis, a contagious lung disease. The nurse, named Donnell Tholley, says Kitibe doesn't know it yet but he's not actually leaving the hospital. He'll be spending a few weeks and possibly up to six months in a tuberculosis unit.
DONNELL THOLLEY: For us in Sierra Leone it's the law. You're going to be held in treatment because it's highly contagious. You're not just going to be leaving like that. It's the law.
KELTO: It turns out, there are a lot of people who have trouble getting out of this hospital in eastern Sierra Leone. In another ward, a group of kids are pushing a plastic toy car along the cement floor. The room they're in feels like a jail cell. There are brick walls, metal bars over the windows and a filthy bathroom off to one side. This ward used to be a well-known research center with a staff of international disease experts, including some from the U.S. But when Ebola hit, they were caught off guard and many staff members died. The building was abandoned and now it's basically a squatter camp for people who have survived Ebola but can't make it home. A woman named Meriatu Kamara is here with her three children.
How long have you been here?
MERIATU KAMARA: (Through translator) Almost two months now. Yeah, two months.
KELTO: She's from a city called Makeni, about 130 miles from here. She was brought to this hospital when her entire family got sick with Ebola. Her husband and two children died. She and three of her other children survived. But since they were released two months ago they haven't been able to go home because public transportation around the country is shut down and she doesn't have any money. She shows me the room where she's sleeping. It's small, with nothing but a metal bed frame and a thin piece of cardboard on top.
KAMARA: (Through translator) Yeah, we have a bed. Just a bed for four of us - I and my three children.
KELTO: Another woman, named Jusoisatu Jusu, lives in a different room here with her 6-year-old son. Like all the survivors, her clothes were destroyed when she arrived. And she's only been given one new set, a long green skirt and a pink tank top.
So you have to - do you wash it every day?
JUSOISATU JUSU: Yes. I wash and I wear it - the same thing.
KELTO: Every day?
KELTO: There are three survivors living in this building. Jusu says they're like a big family now, but she feels trapped.
JUSU: (Through translator) Our freedom is restricted. We have a lot of things to do. This is terrible. We have different jobs to be done in our home so we want to get back.
KELTO: As she's talking, a man wanders into the room. It's Kitibe, the guy who survived Ebola but now has tuberculosis. It turns out the TB ward can't accept him right now so he's come here, into this crowded building with the other survivors. No one here seems to know he has a contagious lung disease. He sits on a wooden bench next to a teenage boy and watches the children play with their toy car.
Anders Kelto, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.