American Ebola patient speaks out as another is identified

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Nancy Writebol/Photo courtesy SIM USA

By Jacque Wilson

(CNN – Sept. 3, 2014) — A doctor with the organization SIM who recently contracted Ebola was identified Wednesday as Rick Sacra of Boston.

He had been to Liberia with SIM before, and volunteered to go again after he heard missionaries Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly contracted the disease, SIM President Bruce Johnson. Sacra, 51, did not directly treat Ebola patients in Liberia during this trip, but rather delivered babies at a general hospital, Johnson said.

Johnson announced the name at a news conference in which Writebol spoke publicly about the ordeal.

There were mornings in Liberia, as she fought off the deadly virus, when she woke up and thought with surprise, “I’m alive.”

Speaking Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, Writebol thanked God, her family, and health care workers in Liberia and Atlanta for nursing her back to health.

“I’m so grateful that this beautiful woman is still with me,” her husband David said. “She is the best part of my life… I love her with all my heart.”

Writebol was diagnosed as having the deadly virus on July 25 while working in Liberia. She’s one of several Americans known to have become infected during the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged West Africa.

Writebol and Brantly received an experimental Ebola drug called ZMapp that seems to have worked wonders in aiding their recovery. The aid workers were flown from Liberia to be treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta in early August. They were released two weeks ago, just days apart.

At the time, Writebol asked for privacy.

“Nancy is free of the virus, but the lingering effects of the battle have left her in a significantly weakened condition,” David Writebol said in a statement. “Thus, we decided it would be best to leave the hospital privately to be able to give her the rest and recuperation she needs.”

Writebol, whose missionary work includes 14 years of aiding orphans and vulnerable children in Africa, was in Liberia with the aid organization Serving in Mission. She and her husband arrived there in August 2013.

She guided missionaries and teams and worked with nurses at ELWA hospital in the capital of Monrovia, where her husband is the technical services manager, according to the Christian group’s website.

The fact that the Writebols left the comforts of America to live in an area rife with poverty, instability and disease, and put their lives at risk to assist those suffering everyday, doesn’t surprise those who know them.

John Munro, their friend and pastor at Calvary Church in Charlotte, described the couple as “the salt of the Earth,” the kind of people who wouldn’t give a second thought to dropping everything to help.

The only thing perhaps ironic about what’s happening now is how such an “unassuming” and “very humble” woman has become international news.

“She is … not someone who would ever make the headlines,” Munro said, “apart from something like this.”

Married for 40 years, the Writebols have traveled the globe, focused on their faith and their desire to help others. Wherever they’ve gone, their lives have been centered on their church and their family, including two now-adult sons who live in the United States.

Ebola might have derailed them, but it hasn’t changed their purpose in life.

“We aren’t going to stop our ministry,” David Writebol said last month. “We believe we can serve wherever God sends us.”

CNN’s Greg Botelho contributed to this story.