Ebola did not take Victoria Yillia's life. And it could not prevent the birth of her son. And yet it loomed, even on this, her happiest day. She delivered her child just a few minutes' walk from the ward where just last year she had hovered between life and death, and nurses and medical staff still wore full protective suits and masks for fear of any lingering infection. Doctors gave her formula and told her not to nurse her baby until they ran tests to be sure there were no traces of the virus in her breast milk. Her husband Anthony beamed in the maternity ward as they talked about names for the boy nestled in a blanket with a yellow knit cap. But Victoria burst into tears: Her mother was not here to help her, to show her what to do with her first child. Nor was her grandmother, or her three older sisters.
The couple and their new baby are all that remain: Twenty-one members of her family died of Ebola when the virus ripped through this corner of Sierra Leone. "Because I lost all my relatives, God has blessed me and I can start a new family," she said, softly cradling the boy. "With this baby, all I have lost has come back to me." Victoria is not just her family's sole survivor—she was also the first person to survive Ebola in Sierra Leone. Her survival was celebrated nationally: She met the president, and the day of her release, June 8, is now National Survivors Day. When Victoria discovered she was pregnant after losing her first pregnancy when she contracted Ebola, she was surprised. Doctors had said there was no way of knowing if she could even carry a child to term after having Ebola. Click for more on her heartbreaking losses and her new baby's birth. (Read more Ebola stories.)