Suzanne Baum talks to Professor Mitchell Levy, whose son Ashoka has recovered from ebola
The Jewish father of a man who survived ebola has spoken of the moment he learnt his 33 year-old son had contracted the deadly virus.
“My heart literally dropped, my hands went cold,” explained Professor Mitchell Levy, on hearing the news about his cameraman son Ashoka Mukpo earlier this month. “We speak most days so when he called I didn’t pick the phone up as I was in the middle of a medical conference in Barcelona.”
It was only when he looked at his mobile and saw a text saying: “Dad, please answer your phone, I’m in trouble,” that Professor Levy feared the worst.
“Ashoka told me he was feeling unwell, had a fever and was vomiting. I’m not an ebola expert but through my work I am very knowledgeable about the virus and just knew he had it.”
The director of the Intensive Care Unit at Rhode Island Hospital, Professor Levy had begged his son not to return to Liberia as the ebola crisis deepened. However, Mukpo-who had spent three years working in the country before returning home in May-insisted on returning to film the health crisis which has claimed more than 3,400 lives, the majority in West Africa.
“He felt a tremendous commitment to the Liberian people and to the Liberian culture, and when he heard about the Ebola outbreak he felt compelled to go back,” said Professor Levy. “I told him it was a terrible idea.”
After speaking with his father, Ashoka was taken to a medical centre in the Liberian capital where he tested positive for Ebola. He was then flown to Nebraska Medical Center in the United States, where he was isolated in a bio-containment unit, given constant fluids and an experimental Ebola drug.
“My son was terrified but I tried to reassure him he was in the early stages of ebola and he mustn’t fear the worst,” added Professor Levy. “The worst thing was all I wanted to do was hug him but I was helpless as he was in quarantine.”
The only form of contact he was able to have with his son was via video-link in his bio-containment unit.
“Although there was a flicker of doubt in my mind Ashoka may not survive I never really feared the worst. If ebola is caught in the early stages, you can get better.”
Three weeks on from that initial phone call, Professor Levy is ecstatic that his son has been released from hospital, after making a full recovery.
“It has been a very difficult time but Ashoka just needs to rest now and build on his strength. My experience in critical care has proven how important life is and he will most certainly grow from having faced a life threatening illness.”