In response to the outpouring of concern about her husband, Richard Sacra, MD, who is the third American doctor to be infected with Ebola in Liberia, Debbie Sacra shared a message of gratitude and hope at a press conference held today at UMass Medical School.
Mrs. Sacra’s comments came moments after the announcement from the international Christian mission organization SIM that Dr. Sacra is being transported from Liberia to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, which has a biocontainment patient care unit, for treatment.
“He walked onto the plane and he is in good spirits,” said Mrs. Sacra. She fought back tears while expressing her hopes for his recovery, and thanked the media for bringing attention to the plight of Liberians “who needed a hospital to open” whether for malaria treatment, maternity care or other medical care.
“We are indeed praying that Rick will stay longer with us so that he can continue the good works that he has done in Liberia and also, caring for patients and teaching Family Practice residents in Worcester.”
A 1989 graduate of the UMMS School of Medicine, Dr. Sacra is assistant professor of family medicine & community health at UMMS and a member of the medical staff at Family Health Center of Worcester. Having spent much of the past 20 years practicing medicine in Liberia, Sacra returned there on Aug. 4 in order to help meet the acute need for health care workers amid deteriorating conditions at the hospital after two of his colleagues at the ELWA hospital were forced to return to the U.S. for treatment upon becoming infected with Ebola.
Mrs. Sacra was accompanied by UMMS Chancellor Michael F. Collins, her brother-in-law David Sacra and UMMS immunologist and Associate Provost for Global Health Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, who has worked in Liberia helping to rebuild its health care system.
Dr. Luzuriaga explained that transport of infected patients is undertaken by a medical team highly experienced with infectious diseases like Ebola; that the medical center in Nebraska is one of the few facilities around the country that can provide the care Ebola patients need to recover; and that the likelihood of transmitting the virus stateside is very small.
“I know there’s a lot of concern about potential risks of bringing people with Ebola to this country,” Luzuriaga said. “These very, very specialized facilities are up to that task.”
Mrs. Sacra said help is needed to support health care workers in Liberia.
“[Rick’s] word to everyone who is watching these broadcasts is that the need in West Africa is desperate and there are resources that can be deployed to make sure that all health care workers have enough gloves and gowns and boots and thermometers to protect themselves from possible Ebola exposures and continue caring for those who need other medical care,” Mrs. Sacra concluded. “Please find a practical way to meet the needs of Liberia and its neighbors in this time of fear and suffering.”
Members of the UMMS community who would like to help health care workers providing care in Liberia may contact:
Related links on UMassMedNow:
UMMS colleagues describe dedication of Richard Sacra
UMass Medical School partners to send Ebola relief to Liberia
WCVB-TV Channel 5: Mass. doctor with Ebola on plane headed to Nebraska
WHDH-TV Channel 7: US doctor infected with Ebola heading to Nebraska
WFXT-TV Channel 25: Wife of Ebola patient Dr. Rick Sacra speaks
WBZ-TV Channel 4: Mass. Doctor Infected With Ebola Heading To Nebraska
Boston Globe: Mass. doctor with Ebola headed to the United States
Associated Press: Mass. doctor infected with Ebola back in US
MetroWest Daily News: Wayland native transferred to Nebraska for treatment
Worcester Telegram and Gazette: Dr. Sacra being flown to Nebraska for treatment