WORCESTER (CBS/AP) — A Massachusetts doctor who is one of three American aid workers successfully treated after contracting the Ebola virus in West Africa discussed his recovery from the disease and said he’s likely to return to Liberia in the future despite his medical battle.
Dr. Rick Sacra and his wife Debbie, who returned home to Holden on Thursday night, held a news conference Friday morning at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. He teaches family medicine and community health there and also works at the Family Health Center of Worcester.
Battling a variety of serious symptoms from the disease, Sacra said during his news conference that “I was concerned that I might die,” but added he knew that was a possibility when he left for Liberia.
Though Sacra said Thursday he looked forward to taking his dog on a long walk, he added Friday that it will still be some time before he can accomplish that.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m tired,” Sacra said on Friday. “Yesterday was my biggest day in the last month. My legs are wobbly and I’m very tired. I’ve been told the process of getting well is going to be two to three months. It’s not a quick recovery.”
Sacra asked for more prayers and practical help for the West African region where the Ebola outbreak is believed to have killed more than 2,900 people. He has said it’s likely he will return to Liberia someday because he has many friends in the country where he lived for 15 years.
“I think the odds of me ending up back there are pretty high. I don’t have any specific plans, but I think that’s where my heart is,” he said.
Sacra was working at a hospital with the North Carolina-based charity SIM. He said he’s not sure when he became infected, but he was taking care of very sick pregnant women and delivering babies, including performing at least 35 cesarean sections.
Two other Americans have recovered from Ebola after being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. A fourth is still being treated there.
Doctors say it’s difficult to know what helped Sacra recover.
He received an experimental Tekmira Pharmaceuticals drug called TKM-Ebola, as well as two blood transfusions from Dr. Kent Brantly, a friend who recovered at Emory. The transfusions are believed to help because a survivor’s blood carries Ebola antibodies. Sacra also received supportive care including IV fluids and aggressive electrolyte management.
Sacra said his desire to help patients in Liberia never wavered, despite the risks. He compared his work to policemen and firefighters who want to help others, while knowing there is a danger associated with the task.
“There’s a sense of obligation, a sense of desire to serve,” said Sacra.
“We all too have that human instinct that says ‘I can’t leave a person who’s in need. I have to help,’” Sacra said.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports