Local doctor remembers friend who died of Ebola

AUBURN, Ind. (WANE) The surgeon from Sierra Leone who was being treated in the United States for Ebola has died. A doctor who’s known him for more than a decade is remembering him, while also recalling that country’s struggles in modern medicine.

Dr. Richard Toupin, a family doctor in Auburn, said he first met Dr. Martin Salia in 2003 and has kept in touch ever since.

Dr. Toupin and his wife were missionaries there in the early 90s and left. He returned in 2003 and that’s when he met Dr. Salia.

“He was energetic, he was smart, he was witty, he was motivated,” said Dr. Toupin.

He said Dr. Salia was one of two doctors at a small, local hospital, called Mattru Hospital.

“There’s about one surgeon for every 250,000 people in the population. So that’d be like one surgeon for Fort Wayne and you can imagine how needed they are,” said Dr. Toupin.

He remembers him as one of the best.

“Martin was a skilled surgeon, fully trained and very competent.”

Dr. Salia’s wife and two sons were living outside of Washington D.C. While many countries in Africa have a difficult time keeping their native doctors, Dr. Salia chose to stay.

Dr. Toupin reunited with Dr. Salia in 2012 and then again in 2013, and talked about old times.

Last Monday, Dr. Toupin got the news that Dr. Salia was sick.

“I couldn’t believe it. I knew that he wasn’t working with Ebola patients but was very saddening to hear that he’d become ill.”

Monday morning, his brother called him to let him know the worst was true.

“Hearing of Dr. Salia’s death is frightening, on the one hand, to realize how deadly this disease is but it’s also motivating on the other hand, realizing there’s a tremendous need there,” said Dr. Toupin, “I’ll remember him as a man who loved the Lord and wanted to serve the Lord, I’ll remember him as a man who loved his family and a man who loved his people and had a deep passion for his people and to serve his people and to help meet the medical needs and that his people have and ultimately he gave his life doing that and so I’ll miss Martin.”

Dr. Toupin said he talks with people in Sierra Leone daily. They said Ebola is scarier than the Civil War in the 90s because no one has any idea of who’s a threat.

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