NANCY WRITEBOL was not afraid when she was diagnosed with the
Ebola virus in Liberia on 26 July. "There was a wonderful peace
that the Lord gave when I received the news that the test was
positive," she said on Monday. "I knew that if I died I would be in
the presence of the Lord, and that if I lived there were more
things to be done for him."
Having received the all-clear at Emory Hospital in Atlanta,
Georgia, on 18 August, she believes that this further work includes
pointing to the plight of her "brothers and sisters" in Liberia,
where 20 new diagnoses are made daily. Brigadier General Frank
Tate, a US general working there, reported on Monday a "dramatic
improvement" - it had been 80 a day - but in Sierra Leone about 500
cases are still reported each week.
At a press conference at Wetheringsett Manor, Suffolk, the
headquarters of her employer, SIM (Serving In Mission in the UK),
Mrs Writebol said: "The one thing is that we just really desire to
continue to raise the level of awareness of what is happening in
Her husband, David, also a missionary, with whom she arrived in
Liberia in August last year, said that her diagnosis had "helped us
as we have served our friends and neighbours in Liberia. It's
helped us to identify with their plight and reach out to them, and
to try to help others to engage in relieving suffering and
proclaiming the gospel and giving hope." The couple are "willing
and ready to go back to Liberia when the time is right".
SIM has worked in Liberia since 1954, when it established a
radio station. In the 1960s, it began to build a hospital. The
chapel was converted into a six-bed treatment centre when the scale
of the oubreak of the virus became clear. It quickly proved
inadequate, and the campus now houses the largest treatment centre
in Liberia, with a 220-bed Médecins Sans Frontières unit.
At the start of the outbreak in March, Mr Writebol was working
as a technical-services manager, while Mrs Writebol was the
personnel coordinator, working part-time in the hospital. She still
doesn't know how she contracted the disease: it was understood that
she was working in a low-risk capacity.
After her diagnosis, she received the experimental drug ZMapp,
before being evacuated to Georgia. There has been anger in Liberia
that the drug was not made available to the indigenous population,
but this month the World Health Organization reported that none of
the 120 potential treatments under assessment, including ZMapp, had
been proved to work.
Mrs Writebol described the effect of being treated in isolation.
"It was a little strange to see David in the PPE [personal
protective equipment] outfit," she said on Tuesday. "For a while,
he was able to come in and at least lay a hand on my shoulder and
let me know he was there, but after a while it was just not
possible because of safety. But he would come to the bedroom window
and talk to me."
Will Elphick, SIM's diector in Liberia, suggested that her
diagnosis had been providential. "When the epidemic started, the
response was slow. The international response really was not there
at that time. I think - providentially, you might say - when Nancy
and Dr Kent Bradley got sick with Ebola, they were evacuated to the
States, and that brought the Ebola crisis to the attention of the
He described a "devastated" medical infrastructure in Liberia.
At least 96 health workers there have died. The SIM hospital seeks
to meet many other needs of the population, including malaria
treatment and maternity services. He urged UK congregations to
pray, give, and "consider whether there are medical people who can
go and serve".
The UN goal of having 70 per cent of patients in treatment and
70 per cent of the dead safely buried by 1 December would not be
"fully met", it reported on Monday.