Nancy Writebol, American Missionary With Ebola, Readying Return Home
CBS News – The Liberia airport authority says a chartered evacuation plane that will take home the second American sick with Ebola has landed at the airport in the capital.
Binyah Kesselly, the chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority’s board of directors, told The Associated Press that the plane arrived late Monday afternoon in Monrovia.
It is scheduled to take off early Tuesday with 59-year-old American missionary Nancy Writebol aboard. Writebol, a long-time missionary from North Carolina, will be treated at the same Atlanta hospital where an American doctor has been taken.
Writebol has received the second dose of an experimental treatment, according to the aid organization she works for in West Africa’s Liberia.
Brantly, who was flown to the hospital Saturday, also received the experimental treatment before he left Africa.
Writebol’s son, Jeremy, said his mother “is still struggling” but that “there seems to be improvement” and that the family is optimistic she will recover amid a spreading Ebola outbreak.
Ebola has killed at least 887 people in four West African countries.
Writebol’s son, Jeremy Writebol, said earlier Monday the attention focused on her case “might help develop a cure and resources to help those who are suffering. I am sure hopeful for that.”
A Liberian government official has confirmed that a medical evacuation team isscheduled to fly Nancy Writebol back to the United States early Tuesday. She will receive treatment at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital alongside one of her mission partners, Dr. Kent Brantly, who was admitted Saturday.
Writebol has been in isolation at her home in Liberia since she was diagnosed last month. She’s now walking with assistance and has regained her appetite, said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, the Charlotte, North Carolina.-based group that she works for in Africa.
Johnson was hesitant to credit the treatment for her improvement. Brantly’s condition has also improved.
“Ebola is a tricky virus and one day you can be up and the next day down. One day is not indicative of the outcome,” he said. But “we’re grateful this medicine was available.”
The experimental treatment is made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, with funding from the government. The treatment is aimed at boosting the immune system’s efforts to fight off the virus. It is made from antibodies produced by lab animals exposed to parts of the Ebola virus.
It’s impossible to know what if any role the experimental treatment played in the Americans’ improvement- they could have improved on their own, as others who survived Ebola have done.
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, but several are under development. Brantly, who works for the international relief group Samaritan’s Purse, also received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy, an Ebola survivor, who had been under his care, according to the group.
The American cases make headlines as dozens of African heads of state converge on Washington for the Monday opening of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, a three-day gathering hosted by President Barack Obama. Among the stated purposes: discussing how to help African nations overcome systemic challenges, including disease.
Brantly and Writebol contracted Ebola after working on the same medical mission team treating victims of the virus around Monrovia, Liberia.
Emory, where Brantly already is quarantined,boasts one of the nation’s most sophisticated infectious disease units. Patients are sealed off from anyone not in protective gear. Lab tests are conducted inside the unit, ensuring that viruses don’t leave the quarantined area. Family members see and communicate with patients through barriers.
Brantly’s wife released a statement Sunday saying she had gotten to see her husband, a physician with the international relief group Samaritan’s Purse.
“Our family is rejoicing over Kent’s safe arrival, and we are confident that he is receiving the very best care,” Amber Brantly said.
Writebol and her husband, David, had been in Liberia since August 2013, sent there by the Christian organization SIM USA and sponsored by their home congregation at Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“They take the Great Commission literally,” said their pastor, the Rev. John Munro, referring to the instruction from Jesus Christ to “make disciples of all nations.”
At the hospital where Brantly treated patients, Nancy Writebol worked as a hygienist whose role included decontaminating those entering or leaving the Ebola treatment area. Munro said David Writebol fulfilled administrative and technical duties.
A few weeks before she was diagnosed, Jeremy Writebol said, a doctor visited the Monrovia hospital where she worked and praised the decontamination procedures as the best he’d seen. Jeremy Writebol said she was “really pleased by knowing that” and never thought she would be infected, despite her proximity to the virus.
David and Nancy Writebol have engaged in foreign missions for 15 years, spending five years in Ecuador and nine years in Zambia, where Munro said they worked in a home for widows and orphans.
Munro recalled speaking with the couple when the Ebola outbreak began.
“We weren’t telling them to come back; we were just willing to help them come back,” he said. “They said, ‘The work isn’t finished, and it must continue.’”
After talking with his father Sunday, the younger Writebol said it’s clear his mother “is still suffering,” but said the family remains optimistic.
Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, also in Atlanta, say they’ve gotten some blowback for bringing Ebola cases to an American hospital. But Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, emphasized again Sunday that there is no threat to the public in the United States.
Frieden’s agency is ramping up its effort to stem Ebola’s spread. He promised “50 staff on the ground” in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone “in the next 30 days.”
Some airlines that serve those nations have suspended flights, while international groups, including the Peace Corps, have evacuated some or all representatives in the region.