Health

Rose Parade float honors Ebola doctors

Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
The float, titled "Protecting Global Health," is funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
Volunteers use a mix of ground nuts to create portraits of Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan (pictured) and Dr. John Taban Dada, a Ugandan national working in Liberia who died of Ebola in October.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
The float will feature a rotating heart bearing the words, "Ebola First Responders." Jim Hynd of Fiesta Parade Floats said it will take 25,000 roses to cover the heart.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
Jim Hynd is the vice president and floral director at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
Tone samples help volunteers paint portraits of Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan and Dr. John Taban Dada for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation float is 18 feet wide and 17 feet tall.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
Volunteers and employees will place roses into these vials filled with water and bleach. Each vial is labeled by float piece.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Volunteers at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale are painting Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan for the Rose Parade float dedicated to Ebola first responders. Khan was the physician leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response.
Kidney beans and ground white rice are used for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation logo.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has had a float in the Rose Parade for the past three years. Last year's featured an actual gay wedding; the others focused on AIDS advocacy.

This year's float is a little different.

It features a 17-foot heart and a giant globe, and will display the words: "Protecting Global Health." 

The float honors the health care workers who have – and are still – fighting Ebola.

"The float both serves as a thanks to those who have been on the front line, and a reminder that the issue is still going on," says Ged Kenslea, spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The Foundation is involved in the Ebola issue because doctors at its West African health centers have been treating the disease - and dying from it.

'A National Hero'

Dr. John Taban Dada, who died in October at age 55, was one of them.

He was a Ugandan national who consulted with AIDS Healthcare Foundation's partner organization in Liberia, called People Associated for People's Assistance. An OB-GYN, Dada was caring for both expectant mothers and Ebola patients at Liberia's largest hospital.

Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan died in July at age 39.

He was the medical officer for AIDS Healthcare Foundation's program in his native Sierra Leone, and had been leading the country’s response to Ebola, Kenslea says.

"He was declared a national hero by the president of Sierra Leone, and he was credited with personally saving over 100 people from Ebola from working on the front lines," notes Kenslea.

Dr. Khan's death was devastating to Samid Khan, one of the doctor's nine siblings.

"It's heartbreaking," Samid Khan says. "He was a young man – very, very, very young."

Speaking from his home in Philadelphia, Samid Khan describes the conversations he had with his brother in the midst of the Ebola epidemic: "He told me about how overwhelmed they are. And how a lot of people were dying. At one point he was burying six people a day. And all the other doctors abandoned [the clinic]."

But Dr. Khan wouldn't abandon his patients, even though he knew he was risking his life, Samid Khan says. He and three other siblings will travel from the East Coast to Pasadena to ride on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float.

Combating stigma, fear

Kenslea says the Foundation made Ebola the topic of this year's float because officials there see similarities in the responses to AIDS and Ebola.

"There was indifference from government officials," he says. "There is a certain amount of fear of the unknown. And there's a certain amount of stigma of those who have the disease."

So besides honoring those who've died fighting Ebola, Kenslea hopes the float reminds people watching the Rose Parade that Ebola is still killing people in West Africa.