UNMC Ebola patient released from hospital

By: Camila Orti


The announcement began with cheers and applause. “Nebraska 1, Ebola 0,” Chancellor Jeffrey Gold said.

After nearly three weeks of Ebola treatment at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Rick Sacra is going home.

The 51-year-old doctor and his wife, Debbie, were greeted like rock stars at a news conference Thursday morning. As Nebraska’s first Ebola patient to be treated and released, Dr. Sacra is somewhat of a star. He contracted the deadly virus while treating patients in Liberia, and was transported to UNMC’s special facility for treatment on Sept. 5.

Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness that has killed thousands of people in West Africa just in the last several months.

On Thursday, all smiles, Sacra was healthy enough to deliver the good news himself.

“The CDC has declared me safe and free of virus, thank God, I love you all,” he said.

Two blood samples sent to the CDC confirmed he no longer has the virus in his bloodstream. A staff numbering into the hundreds treated Sacra with a variety of things, including an experimental drug- different than the one given to the first two patients brought to the U.S. Sacra was also given plasma from an Ebola survivor.

“You were boots on the ground, 24 hours a day,” Dr. Phil Smith, Biocontainment Unit Director, said of his medical staff. “You acted with courage and compassion and I’m very proud of every one of you.”

At the news conference, Sacra had nothing but positive things to say about his care at UNMC.

“The care was so excellent, so speedy… I really never got to a stage where I was like, ‘Oh my God I’m not gonna make it,'” Sacra said.

While Sacra’s time at UNMC may be over, he still has a ways to go before he fully recovers. The medical team estimates it could be another month before he regains 100 percent of his energy.

And although Sacra may not have experienced much of Nebraska outside of his plastic cocoon…

“I am now an official, lifetime Husker fan,” Sacra said, “Go Big Red!”

The doctor mentioned he probably will eventually return to Liberia some day to continue his work. Although it hasn’t been tested, medical experts believe once you survive Ebola, you are immune from getting infected again.

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