WORCESTER (CBS) – Dr. Rick Sacra is delivering on a promise he made even before he was cured of Ebola.
“This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone,” says his wife Debbie.
An upbeat Dr. Sacra strolled into a news conference at the hospital where he teaches — UMass Memorial – and announced he’s going back to Liberia later this week. The family physician who now calls Holden home has done missionary doctoring in Liberia for a quarter century.
“The experts tell me I’m immune,” he says with a smile. “But I don’t plan to test that.”
Indeed, the CDC believes Sacra can no longer catch Ebola – the disease that has killed more than 8,000 people in three West African nations. But he’s also quick to mention a religious calling – citing a commitment by Jesus to the lost and suffering.
“And he asked us to do the same,” says Sacra.
Dr. Sacra will not be working in the Ebola unit at the ELWA hospital in Monrovia – run by the North Carolina based Christian charity SIM. Instead, he’ll be doing everything from treating malaria patients to delivering babies – the same kind of work he was doing when he first contracted Ebola last August.
He was flown to the University of Nebraska Medical Center where he was saved by cutting edge treatment – but the chronic fatigue and blurry eyesight have been stubborn.
“I’ve had a few bumps in the road,” admits the father of three.
When he went overseas last summer he was covering for doctors who’d fallen ill – some of whom died. Now, he’ll spend a month giving some exhausted comrades a breather.
“So I feel I need to go – to give them a break so they don’t burn out,” says Sacra. “They’ve been working incredibly hard.”
His return trip comes as things improve somewhat in Liberia – even as new Ebola cases continue to spike in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Sixty percent of those who contract Ebola die.
“I kind of think his going back will be a big encouragement to people there,” says wife Debbie.
But Dr. Sacra wants to keep the world spotlight on this crisis – even as he realizes he’s likely to find himself on the front lines again – by nature of his immunity.
“I may be the ‘go-to’ guy for unknown, risky patients,” he says. “I don’t know. But whatever role I can play I’m happy to do that.”
He’ll head for Liberia on Thursday.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports
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