Few people will witness the devastating loss that Joseph Bimba and his wife, Elisabeth, have seen. Joseph, a missionary, and Elisabeth, a nurse, have spent their lives caring for others.

The Bimba family is pictured   while Joseph was a patient at Sentara Leigh Hospital.

The Bimba family is pictured while Joseph (right) was a patient at Sentara Leigh Hospital.

Native Liberians, the Bimbas survived the tragic first Liberian Civil War from 1989 to 1996, which claimed the lives of over 200,000 people. They have faced fear and survived what can only be described as tragedy, to find a safe home in the United States.

Although Joseph Bimba beat the odds by surviving a war-torn era, he was not able to avoid a different mortal enemy – cancer. After a lifetime of struggle, Joseph Bimba was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, with no insurance or financial resources to pay for the care he needed. After a lifetime of defending his family,  he would face another battle, to beat cancer.

Rebel Invasion

In 1989 Joseph and Elisabeth were living in northern Liberia when rebels invaded the country. During the series of invasions, Joseph was 317 miles away from home on a mission trip. Rebels invaded their town and demanded that Elisabeth provide medical care for their troops since she was the director of the health center. She was scared, but did what she was told to survive.

“I tried to get back to Elisabeth, back to my home, but the rebels stopped all means of transportation. The group I was traveling with tried to walk but the distance was too far to travel by foot. The soldiers were killing masses of people and stealing their clothing, food or water. Since I was a missionary and man of God, they did not kill me,” recalls Joseph.

After months of separation, Elisabeth was granted permission by the rebel commanding officer in her town to use a car and driver to go get her husband.

“I remember being so scared as we drove through each check point and seeing all the terrible devastation. We were able to find Joseph and bring him back safely,” says Elisabeth.

Escaping to safety 

The Bimbas.

The Bimbas.

Joseph and Elisabeth knew they needed to get their young family out of the dangerous war-torn country. After careful planning, Joseph and Elisabeth took their two young daughters, Namie (4) and Elaine (1), and escaped to Conakry, Guinea, to flee from the rebels in 1991. The family remained in Guinea for three months before the U.S. Embassy in Guinea granted visas to Elisabeth, who was seven months pregnant with their unborn son Levi, and their one-year-old daughter Elaine. They traveled to the United States while Joseph and Namie stayed in Guinea for two more years before they were granted visas. The family finally reunited in New York in 1993.

A battle with cancer

After living in New York for five years, Joseph got the opportunity to study at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Bimbas moved so Joseph could pursue a higher education degree. However, during his last semester in 2000, Joseph became sick with severe abdominal pain. He went to the local hospital system in Tulsa and after a series of tests, doctors discovered he had lymphoma. Joseph had surgery to remove part of his bowel and doctors determined that no further chemotherapy or radiation was needed.

It was not until 2011 that Joseph’s health issues began to worsen. While on another overseas mission trip, Elisabeth noticed Joseph’s condition was worsening. He was losing weight rapidly and his abdomen became distended. He returned to the U.S. to learn he had lost nearly 50 pounds and had stage 4 lymphoma.

Although Joseph’s condition was getting worse, his faith remained strong. After multiple visits to his local doctors and series of natural remedies, Joseph began to feel better. He had promised to visit his eldest daughter, who was pursuing her MBA at Regent University, so he began his final journey to Hampton Roads. The long trip from Tulsa to Norfolk was very hard, but Joseph was determined to see his daughter.

Sentara Leigh Hospital

Joseph and Elisabeth arrived in Norfolk in late September 2012 to see their daughter Namie. While in Norfolk, Joseph’s condition became unbearable and he was rushed to Sentara Leigh Hospital on October 2nd. Staff immediately began running tests and determined he needed surgery. After multiple procedures to repair his bowels, he began cancer treatment.

“Sentara has helped me finally receive the care I needed for so many years,” said Joseph.

Patient Assistance

Joseph was recently released from Sentara Leigh Hospital and he is now recuperating at home.  As part of our not-for-profit mission, Sentara delivered his care without regard to his inability to pay for services.  And, with the help of patient assistance funds, Joseph is finally able to receive the medications and supplies he needs to begin recovery from his long battle with cancer. Without these generous donations, his recovery would not be possible.

“I am grateful and thankful to God and all of the Sentara employees involved in my care. I especially would like to thank: Teresa Edwards, President Sentara Leigh Hospital; Sherry Norquist, Manager Care Coordination; and my amazing surgeon Dr. Snyder and his entire surgical staff. I have been treated with such respect and truly appreciate everything they have done for me,” recalls Joseph. “Words cannot express how thankful I am.”

After surviving the devastating Liberian Civil War and over a decade long battle with cancer, Joseph is on the road to recovery. Joseph has dedicated his life to helping others, and now he has gotten the care and help he deserves!