WASHINGTON: A US doctor who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and survived after weeks of intensive treatment in Atlanta is speaking out for the first time in an interview published Sunday.
Ian Crozier — who until now has remained anonymous in news accounts of his treatment, at his request — said he cannot remember the first three weeks he spent in an isolation ward at Emory Hospital, where he was near death from the hemorrhagic virus.
But the doctor, who was in Sierra Leone to help fight the epidemic that has now killed more than 6,000 in West Africa, has read his chart.
“It’s a horrible-looking chart,” he told The New York Times.
Crozier and his relatives said they gave the interviews to raise awareness of the continuing epidemic and to thank the medical team who saved his life.
And despite his grave illness and fears of permanent brain damage — Crozier says he feels his mind working slower than before — the Zimbabwe-born doctor says he hopes to return to West Africa to continue treating Ebola patients within the next few months.
“There’s still a great deal left to be done,” he said, noting that his recovery should mean he is immune to future infection with the virus.
The latest data on the West African outbreak, the worst known spread of the virus since it was discovered in the 1970s, showed the epidemic was far from over, with an increase in cases reported in Sierra Leone and Guinea, but a drop in Liberia.
Crozier contracted with the World Health Organization and went to Sierra Leone in August.
He describes the horrors of the understaffed isolation wards there, but also tells of patients who helped each other pull through — including a group of three brothers who he initially thought were too sick to survive.
“They were this little band of brothers,” he said, and “they just sort of pushed each other through it.” All three boys survived.
Grozier fell ill in September and spent 40 days in the US hospital. He was the “by far sickest patient” Emory has treated for Ebola, Jay Varkey, an infectious-disease specialist, told the Times.
Tombstones are seen at a cemetery at the Kenama ebola treatment center run by the Red cross Society on November 15, 2014
AFP – Francisco Leong
Doctors used aggressive techniques, including dialysis and ventilators, to keep him alive as the virus ravaged his body and shut down his kidneys.
“One of the things Ian taught us was, guess what, you can get sick enough to need those interventions and you can still walk out of the hospital,” said Emory team leader Bruce Ribner.
Crozier also received a blood transfusion from a British nurse who had survived Ebola — an experimental treatment that may help transfer antibodies that fight the illness to the patient.