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A Volunteer Doctor Saves Lives in Liberia

  • October 27, 2014

Volunteer doctors who receive medicines and supplies donated by AmeriCares Medical Outreach program travel to some of the poorest countries in the world to provide health care, often under daunting conditions. Dr. Richard Sacra, a physician from Worcester, Massachusetts, and working with the organization SIM-USA, arrived in Liberia in mid-August to perform critical surgeries in the midst of an international health emergency, the deadly Ebola outbreak. For these medical professionals, a considerable risk is outweighed by a greater need.

The Ebola crisis has closed many health facilities in Liberia, the epicenter of a disease that has already infected more than 10,000 people. With many local health workers infected and protective supplies and medicines running out, people with other critical health needs may have no place to seek treatment.

Dr. Sacra arrived at ELWA Hospital with a stock of medicines and surgical supplies donated by AmeriCares and immediately went to work, performing 35 surgeries and seeing 65 patients – treating many pregnant women who had no place else to go.

Describing one surgery, he said he received a phone call from a friend to appeal for their neighbor, a 13-year-old girl who was very sick with severe abdominal pain. They had been to several hospitals but none was able to accept her. The family was desperate. Even ELWA Hospital in the midst of the health crisis was only treating obstetric patients. His colleague, Dr. Jerry Brown, ELWA Hospital Medical Director, who had already spent a long exhausting day treating patients, examined the young girl and agreed that immediate surgery was necessary.

They started her two hours of surgery at 10 that night and repaired serious intestinal damage from a previous typhoid infection – and then spent the rest of the night monitoring her progress as she had a fever and trouble breathing.

Dr. Sacra reports, “Today, I am happy to say she is improving and slowly recovering. But she is just one of so many people in Liberia who are at risk because of the Ebola tsunami that swept through an already fragile healthcare system.”

He adds, “My trip was unfortunately cut short when I came down with the Ebola virus and had to be transported back to Nebraska’s bio-containment unit. Thank God, I survived. I hope to go back to Liberia in January or February with another AmeriCares donation. Thank you.”

Dr. Sacra was discharged from the Nebraska unit and returned home to Massachusetts on September 25.

Our Medical Outreach program provides medicines and supplies to help thousands of medical professionals like Dr. Sacra every year – each one doing extraordinary work saving lives, sometimes risking their own. Supporting health workers around the world and building health care access for the millions of people who lack basic care is a cornerstone of our work at AmeriCares.

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