A Howard County man has died in Liberia after he slipped into a coma and was unable to be evacuated for medical care amid fears of an ebola outbreak abroad, his sister said Thursday.
Nathaniel Dennis, 24, suffered a seizure last week and his family had hoped to bring him to Ghana, where hospitals are better equipped to treat patients. But Ghanaian officials would not allow Dennis into the country, fearing that he might bring the ebola virus with him.
Dennis' sister, Natasha Dennis, 27, said that Nathaniel had been quarantined in a Liberian hospital after his seizure and had tested negative for ebola three times during that period.
"It’s just one of those things that the hysteria got everyone so afraid that no one was willing to help us," she said.
Natasha Dennis remembered Nathaniel as the "baby brother" of the family, who was interested in a career in radio. He grew up in Columbia and graduated from Howard High School in 2007. He was currently a student at Howard Community College.
Nathaniel, Natasha and their brother Norwood, 25, had traveled to Monrovia, the Liberian capital, in late May to visit their mother, who works as an educator there.
By the end of their multiweek trip, Nathaniel had found a job at a local radio station and decided to extend his stay, she said.
"He just got so busy" working and attending events, she recalled. "It was crazy how he fit into the community so quickly."
But after Nathaniel unexpectedly suffered a seizure that put him in a coma last week, the family's attention shifted to getting him out of the country as fast as possible so that he could have access to the care he needed. A GoFundMe account they set up had raised more than $11,500 to help with medical costs as of Thursday afternoon.
Natasha said the family's next goal is to bring Nathaniel's body home to the United States.
She plans to continue to advocate for improving medical care in the west African nation, which she called "a great, great place" weakened by two civil wars between 1989 and 2005.
"We fought hard and he fought really hard, but he couldn’t even get the care he needed," she said of her brother. And, she added, "he's not the only person being affected. At least we had the resources to have a fighting prayer."
Donations can be made to the family's GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/c6jr3w.