By Kate Merrill

HOLDEN (CBS) – An Ebola survivor one year later. It’s been 12 months since Massachusetts doctor Rick Sacra came back from Liberia battling the potentially deadly disease. Dr. Sacra was the third American working in Africa to contract Ebola. Today we sat down with him at his Holden home to talk about his work, his faith and his continuing commitment.

“Over the last year I came face to face with the possibility of dying,” he says.

Last year at this time Dr. Sacra was in an ambulance, rushing to a special bio-containment unit at the Nebraska Medical Center. Sacra worked at a clinic in Liberia when the Ebola epidemic was in full force. Though he didn’t work with known Ebola patients, he obviously came in contact with the disease that has killed thousands.

“For my own self I was pretty calm and at peace. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and I think God gave me that sense of peace to get through that,” he says.

That strong faith is why he was caring for patients in Africa in the first place. “That simple command to love your neighbor as yourself,” he says.

Rick recovered, came home to Holden and a few months later returned to Liberia. “The needs are still there and now I’m immune to Ebola, so that kind of takes some of the risk out of it,” he says. “The Ebola situation is so much better now than it was a year ago. A year ago we literally had people dying on the streets,” he adds.

Today, Sacra says there are no Ebola cases in Liberia and only a few in other countries. But the health care systems in some of those countries are in shambles because so many medical professionals died from Ebola. “The world needs to keep our eyes on this part of the world, and to continue to make a difference there because there’s a long road to recovery,” Dr. Sacra says.

Dr. Sacra has been back to Liberia three times in the past year and plans another trip in November. An estimated 11,000 people have died from Ebola. When he’s not working in Liberia he practices at the Family Health Center in Worcester.

Kate Merrill

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