The Ebola virus has been around since 1976, according to survivor Nancy Writebol as told to Abigal Cuffey in Woman's Day. That came as a surprise to me since we've been hearing about it for less than a year. We know how deadly viruses can become but we've never encountered one quite as deadly as Ebola, except for H.I.V. Caused by infection and spread through bodily fluids Ebola is rampant in Western Africa.
- Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are the most affected countries.
- In Sierra Leone there is a ban on public gatherings and a nightly curfew.
- The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
- Monkeys from Africa or the Philippines may carry Ebola.
- The bodies of people who have died of Ebola are still contagious.
- Ebola leads to multiple organ failures.
- Ebola is difficult to diagnose as it's symptoms are similar to those of malaria.
- The number of people diagnosed with the virus since its outbreak is 9,596 as of t his writing.
[The outbreak is] the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced.— Margaret Chan, UN Cheat Sheet: 4 Things To Watch This Week (Sep. 22, 2014).
The number of Ebola survivors is growing. Some superstitious natives think the survivors are some kind of witches because they survived. According to the World Health Organization there are many problems to be faced for survivors in West Africa. Their families have died while they were ill, some have some type of eye or vision problems. Others have peeling skin, yet others joint and muscle pains. So even those who survive, suffer.
For some survivors their bout with Ebola and their subsequent immunity has led them to help others in their community and they work as volunteers in clinics.
Among the survivors are six Americans; Dr. Kent Brantly, Dr. Rick Sacra, aid worker Nancy Writebol, nurse Nina Pham, nurse Amber Vinson and journalist Ashoka Mukpo. These people were treating people with Ebola or writing about it for us. Two more Ebola patients have died on U.S. soil: Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with the disease in the U.S., and Dr. Martin Salia. Each survivor had a unique experience and a unique story to tell, including Nancy Writebol.
Nancy was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. She and her husband were married in 1974 and raised two sons, now both in their thirties. When their sons were in their teens the Writebols decided to heed the call and investigate what they could do to serve God as missionaries. Nancy's parents had been very religious and even traveled to Haiti to help out. She had met many religious missionaries when she was growing up. Her husband Dave was a youth pastor and also heard the call to do more.
They began their missionary career in Ecuador, then northwest South America, and Zambia in southern Africa. In August of 2013 they joined an interdenominational Christian group called Serving in Mission (SIM). They then went to Liberia where David was a technical manager of the hospital and Nancy was a nurse's assistant when Ebola broke out. In fact she was in charge of overseeing health workers treating Ebola patients. She made sure they put on their personal protective equipment (PPE) and she sprayed them with a bleach solution after they'd been in contact with patients. She often worked twelve and fourteen hour shifts. She made sure doctors and nurses had no skin exposed. She was believed to be in the "low risk" section of the hospital.
Nancy felt safe and her concern was for the patients and the doctors and nurses treating them. When her symptoms first began she was convinced she had malaria. At first her blood test did show malaria but the treatment didn't seem to be working and her symptoms worsened. A second blood test showed she had Ebola. David told her by saying that Kent Brantley M.D., a close friend, had Ebola, "And so do you". It seems Dr. Brantley got sick on July 22 and Nancy on July 23. Different magazines and Nancy's own account tell how David reached out wanting to hug her and she told him "no don't". She was concerned for his health. No one knows how she contracted the deadly strain of Ebola, but she did.
David and Nancy's little bungalow was turned into an isolation unit for Nancy. David was isolated for twenty-one days in a separate apartment. For two weeks her condition worsened and she explained that she felt weaker and weaker. She repeats over and over that her faith helped to see her through. There were days she didn't think she was going to live and others when she was just grateful to be alive.
Her condition worsened and she began showing signs of internal bleeding along with diarrhea and memory lapses due to her dehydration. She was in excrutiating pain and even the bed sheets hurt her. It looked like she was going to die. An experimental drug was flown in but not enough to give to Brantly and Writebol. Due to her failing health it was given to Nancy. There were three doses needed however, after deciding to give the initial dose to Nancy, Dr. Brantly took a turn for the worse. The final decision was one dose to Nancy, one to Dr. Brantly and the third to whoever needed it.
SIM arranged for her to be flown to Atlanta. Dr. Brantly was flown out on August 3 and Nancy on August 4. She said she didn't think she was going to live through that fifteen hour flight.
David and their two sons were allowed to talk to Nancy on a telephone and could see her through a window at the hospital in Atlanta. She couldn't get out of bed, her vision was blurred and she suffered from nerve pain in her feet. She gradually improved and at one point was able to walk to a shower with the help of a nurse. Finally, a month after contracting the virus, Nancy was virus free.
An article about Nancy in the AARP magazine states, "Experts don't know exactly what saved Nancy Writebol - whether it was the ZMapp, the blood transfusions or simply the supportive care she received in the U.S., something that doctors have pointed out is sadly lacking in West Africa." The Writebols believe it was the "grace of God".
She still suffers residual effects and will stay in the States until she is fully recovered. Will she return to Africa? She is not sure yet but believes she will.
Did you know Early Ebola symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, cough, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The outbreak is not over. Ebola continues to spread and is untreated in outlying areas. The cases of Dr.Brantley and Nancy Writebol brought Ebola to the forefront here in America, but now it seems publicity is dying down. Ebola, however, is not dying down. The main concern is those outlying areas where cases are not only unreported but untreated.
World organizations and governments must continue their support and education regarding Ebola, its prevention, and its treatment. A better health infrastructure is needed in places like Africa to help prevent future spreading of Ebola or yet unknown diseases.
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Information Gathered From the Following Sources
One.org - #mce_temp_url#
Woman's Day February 2015, "I Survived Ebola" by Nancy Writebol, as told to Abigail Cuffey
The AARP Magazine, December 2014/January 2015, Back From the Dead: An Ebola Victim's Story by Jan Goodwin.