CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The third American aid worker sickened with Ebola is a Boston-area doctor who decided to return to Liberia after the two others fell ill with the deadly virus, the president of his missionary group said Wednesday.
Dr. Rick Sacra, of Holden, Massachusetts, went back to Liberia about a month ago and was not caring for Ebola patients, instead delivering babies at the missionary group’s hospital in Liberia, SIM President Bruce Johnson said at a news conference.
When a fellow SIM worker and another missionary doctor became sick, Sacra called and said, “I’m ready to go,” Johnson said.
SIM needed doctors to take care of patients not infected with Ebola, said Will Elthick, director of SIM’s operations in Liberia. Sacra followed all protocols to protect himself, Elthick said, and he’s in good spirits and able to email.
Dr. Gregory Culley, Sacra’s supervisor in Massachusetts, says Sacra has been going back and forth between the Family Health Center in Worcester and a hospital in Monrovia for almost two decades.
“Dr. Sacra is probably the closest thing that a living human-being can be to being a saint,” Culley told WBUR. “He is a first-class physician, he is a dedicated missionary.”
SIM does not know whether Sacra, who is in isolation, will return to the U.S. for treatment, as the other two Americans did, Johnson said.
Dr. Bruce Ribner, who oversaw the first two missionaries’ treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, told NBC’s “Today” show that he also does not know whether the third patient will come there.
“I know there have been discussions that this person will be coming back to the United States,” Ribner, head of the hospital’s infectious disease unit, said. “I don’t believe the actual site where they’re coming back has been decided yet.”
Dr. Kent Brantly, the first Ebola patient to arrive at Emory, said he knew the latest American to fall ill quite well and has prayed for him and his family, whom he said were “holding up pretty well.” Brantly worked for Samaritan’s Purse, a missionary group that partners with SIM in Liberia. Both are based in North Carolina.
Nancy Writebol, the second American sickened, said she believes an experimental drug, her medical care and her faith helped save her.
“Those were some very, very dark days,” Writebol, 59, said of her illness.
Brantly and Writebol were both released last month. Writebol has been spending time with her husband at an undisclosed location. Her husband was quarantined for a week at the SIM campus before being released.
The virus that has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa is spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, not through casual contact.