By Karen Garloch, The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There were times when missionary Nancy Writebol thought she would not survive her Ebola virus infection, the now-cured Charlotte, N.C., woman told reporters in her first public appearance since leaving an Atlanta hospital last month.
Recounting the ordeal of being placed on a specially-equipped flight from Liberia wearing a protective suit, and surrounded by medical staff who were also in suits, she recalled thinking: “I don’t even know if I’m going to make it to the United States. I don’t even know if I’m going to see my dear husband again.”
She would survive and was discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Aug. 19.
On Wednesday, she appeared with husband, David Writebol, also a missionary, who was quarantined for a time on the 90-acre Charlotte campus of SIM USA, the international charity that sponsored their work in West Africa. David Writebol was released from quarantine Aug. 17 without developing symptoms after being exposed to Ebola while sharing quarters with his wife in Monrovia, Liberia.
SIM USA also released the name of a third American missionary, also a physician, who contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia. He is Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, from the Boston area. He traveled to Liberia after Nancy Writebol’s infection was announced. It is not clear whether that doctor will be flown to the United States for treatment.
He was treating obstetrics patients at ELWA hospital but was not treating Ebola patients in the hospital’s isolation unit.
Nancy Writebol, 59, left the Emory hospital after doctors declared her cured of the often-deadly infectious disease and said she could return to a normal life with “no public health threat.”
She is one of two American missionaries who were flown to Atlanta in early August to undergo treatment at an isolation unit at Emory. Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, a missionary doctor for Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse, are the first two Ebola patients to be treated in the United States. And both have attributed their survival to the expertise of their health-care teams and to God.
Both Nancy Writebol and Brantly received doses of an experimental drug, ZMapp, and Brantly received a blood transfusion in Liberia from a teenager who survived Ebola infection. But health officials have said they don’t know whether those treatments contributed to the missionaries’ recovery.
Writebol and Brantly were infected while working at SIM’s ELWA hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, where Brantly cared for Ebola patients and Nancy Writebol helped decontaminate protective gear worn by health care workers when they treated patients.
Health officials have said they don’t know how Nancy Writebol or Brantly contracted the virus because they were following infection control protocols devised by the CDC and the World Health Organization. SIM officials said they also do not know how the second American doctor was infected.
More than 3,000 Ebola cases have been reported in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and 1,552 have died, for a mortality rate of about 50 percent, according to the CDC. The virus is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people who are having symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Photo: Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer/MCT