CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In a news conference today on the campus of missionary organization SIM USA, Nancy Writebol, joined by her husband, David, shared for the first time details of her battle with the Ebola virus.
While in Liberia, Writebol served at SIM’s ELWA Hospital. She expressed that it was a great privilege to be part of the hospital staff during such a difficult time. Prior to contracting Ebola, she assisted nurses and doctors who were entering and exiting the Ebola unit, dressing them upon entry and helping to decontaminate upon exit.
On July 22, based on her symptoms, Writebol suspected she had contracted malaria. She had a malaria smear and tested positive. While it was not believed that she had Ebola, days later she was given a test to put minds at ease. She learned that both she and Dr. Kent Brantly, a colleague and dear friend, had tested positive for Ebola.
“I got out of bed, and David came forward to give me a hug,” said Writebol. “I knew how dangerous that was. I told him, it’s going to be okay. I had no clue what was going to happen, and yet there was no fear. I thought, whether I live or whether I die, it’s going to be okay.”
Since her recovery, Writebol has been asked whether she believes that it was the experimental drug, supportive care, the Liberian or U.S. medical staff, or her faith that saved her life.
“My answer to that question is ‘all of the above,’” Writebol said. “I want to say first, to God be the glory, because he is the one who gives us life and numbers our days. But God uses doctors, and God uses experimental drugs. We don’t know whether the drug helped or worked. We don’t know whether it was the supportive care, but I’m telling you it was very, very necessary. And we are seeing wonderful results just from supportive care in West Africa.”
Since her recovery, Writebol continues to express thanks for SIM’s leadership, Samaritan’s Purse, the medical teams in the U.S. and Liberia and the many people around the world that have prayed for her.
“I would like to say thank you to so many people who have been such a part of this story,” said Writebol. “This is God’s story. God is writing this. I would like to thank the Lord for his grace and mercy and for my life.”
Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, was also present to share updates on SIM’s facilities and personnel in Liberia still at the center of the crisis.
“Nearly two months ago our worlds were turned upside down with the news of Nancy and Kent,” said Johnson. “We are all doing better, except the world suffering from Ebola. It has gotten much worse. Our overwhelming joy of seeing Nancy come through Ebola and now to see her energy level and her great smile returning is only moderated by our love and compassion for the people of Liberia.”
Johnson announced that on Monday, 12 people were released from SIM’s 50-bed Ebola Care Unit in Monrovia, Liberia, having also survived the deadly disease. He also announced that on Monday Dr. Rick Sacra, a veteran doctor with SIM, tested positive for Ebola.
Since joining the ministry in the late 80’s with his wife, Debbie, Sacra has served as the Liberia country director, medical director of the ELWA Hospital and most recently is establishing a residency program for family medicine for Liberia at the hospital. This is one part of the SIM’s effort to help Liberians rebuild the medical infrastructure of the country and to train its medical professionals.
Dr. Sacra volunteered to go to Liberia shortly after hearing Dr. Brantly was unable to fulfill his medical duties. Dr. Sacra was caring for patients in the obstetrics ward at ELWA. Since his diagnosis, he is being cared for at SIM’s ELWA 2 Ebola Care Center.
The Ebola Care Centers on the 136-acre SIM campus are the largest such facilities in Liberia. A 50-bed unit is being run by SIM’s Liberian medical professionals and staff. A 200-bed unit is being run by MSF/Doctors without Borders.
SIM has no confirmation at this time about the exact contact point Dr. Sacra had with Ebola and contracted it. The ministry is cooperating fully with CDC personnel currently in Liberia.
The latest updates on SIM’s role in the Ebola epidemic in Liberia are available atsimusa.org/ebolacrisis.
SIM is an international Christian mission organization with a staff of nearly 3,000 workers from over 50 countries serving in more than 65 nations. In addition to medicine, SIM serves on every continent in areas of education, community development, public health and Christian witness. While SIM stood for Sudan Interior Mission when it was founded 120 years ago, it is now a global mission known as SIM (pronounced S-I-M).