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Massachusetts Doctor Talks About His Recovery From Ebola


The Massachusetts doctor who was cured of the deadly Ebola virus, which he contracted while working in Liberia, said the odds are good he will return to that country.

Dr. Rick Sacra appeared cheerful and energetic as he spoke at a news conference in Worcester Friday, one day after returning home from the Nebraska Medical Center, where he had been treated for three weeks.

"Thank God to be home, and to be well," said Sacra.

But he said he was tired and his legs felt wobbly. Sacra, 51, said he lost 15 pounds and expects it will take months before he fully recovers.   

Sacra and his wife Debbie spoke with reporters at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and described his ordeal with Ebola. He made an appeal for resources to help the western African countries hit hard by the disease and said it was “heartbreaking” to see the suffering in Liberia.

"Please continue to join us in prayer and in providing resources to the people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea."

Sacra spent much of the last two decades in Liberia, working for a missionary group.

" I think the odds of my ending up back there are pretty high. I don't have any specific plans, but that is where my heart is."

Debbie Sacra called Liberia the couple’s adopted second home.

" This was not just his life, it was our life in Liberia and I am sure going back will be part of my life in the future," said Debbie Sacra.

Dr. Sacra said he has no regrets and no second thoughts about his decision to go to Liberia on August 3rd, after hearing that the Ebola outbreak had closed all the hospitals in the country.  He said he believes he became infected while delivering babies at a clinic. 

Sacra said when he became ill with a fever on August 29th he immediately suspected it was Ebola.

"Of course I was concerned that I might die. I had thought this through before going and had counted the costs in my own mind and knew this was a possiblity."

Sacra was evacuated from Liberia and brought to the hospital in Omaha where he was quarantined in a biocontainment unit.  He was treated with a research drug that inhibits the ability of the virus to replicate.

"  Hey,this is Ebola, not the common cold," he said when asked if he was concerned about taking a drug that had not been tested in humans.

He was also given plasma from Dr. Kent Brantly, another Ebola survivor. The plasma contains anti-Ebola antibodies.

 Sarca said he expects it will be at least two months before he does any medical work again. He teaches family medicine and community health at the UMass Medical School in Worcester. He also works at Family Health Center of Worcester.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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