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One-Year Anniversary of Ebola Crisis Approaching

New Ebola Cases in Liberia Still Find SIM Workers at Forefront of Care 

Missionaries Available for Retrospective and Comment on Current Situation, Ongoing Work

Contact: Palmer Holt, 704-662-2569, PHolt@InChristCommunications.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 7, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ -- One year ago the world witnessed a public health emergency that dominated headlines for months – the Ebola crisis in West Africa. The global mission agency SIM played a significant role in that drama and the temporary eradication of Ebola in Liberia. 

Now new cases have been reported in that country. While health officials in Liberia declared the country Ebola-free in May after 45 days had passed without a new reported case, three Liberians recently were diagnosed with Ebola. One, a 17-year-old boy, died. The other patients are being treated under the direction of the Liberian Ministry of Health at the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) located on SIM's ELWA Hospital campus. SIM's Dr. Jerry Brown, a native of Liberia, is the ETU medical director.

SIM principals are available for interviews regarding the current situation, their roles and their reflections on the one-year anniversary of American missionaries contracting the disease. They are available in person, by video conference, phone or email. 

Key SIM missionaries and executives include:

  • Nancy Writebol – Charlotte, N.C. /Monrovia, Liberia

    Nancy Writebol and her husband, David, joined SIM in 2013. Before serving with SIM in Monrovia, Liberia, they spent 14 years ministering to orphans and vulnerable women in Ecuador and Zambia.   

    Following the Ebola outbreak in March 2014, SIM's ELWA Hospital in Monrovia established its Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center. Nancy volunteered as a member of the joint SIM/Samaritan's Purse crisis team. Her role included disinfecting doctors and nurses working with Ebola patients. 

    On July 26, 2014, doctors diagnosed Nancy with the Ebola virus. She subsequently was airlifted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where she was treated and released, becoming one of America's first two Ebola patients to survive the disease in the U.S.  

    The Writebols now reside in Monrovia, where David has been appointed SIM country director for Liberia, and Nancy serves as personnel coordinator. They will return to the U.S. for a women's conference speaking engagement in early October.
  • Rick Sacra, MD -- Holden, Mass. / Monrovia Liberia

    Family physician and SIM missionary Rick Sacra was not directly engaged in Ebola care when he contracted the disease in Liberia. Sacra likely became infected while performing an emergency Cesarean section while following established protocols.

    After his Ebola diagnosis on Sept. 1, Sacra received successful treatment at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He has since returned to Liberia on short-term trips to continue his work at SIM's ELWA Hospital and envisions establishing a residency program for future Liberian doctors. This is one of the efforts by SIM to help reconstruct the medical infrastructure of the country. 

    Sacra began service with SIM in April 1995 and has served primarily in Liberia since then. He treats general patients at ELWA, many with malaria or other chronic health issues, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. He also handles maternity and pediatrics. 
    When in the U.S., Sacra serves as a clinician at the Family Health Center of Worcester and as assistant professor at UMass Medical School. He will return from Liberia on July 25 and be in the U.S. on the anniversary of his illness.
  • John Fankhauser, MD – Ventura, Calif. /Monrovia, Liberia
    Dr. John Fankhauser, a family physician and SIM missionary from Ventura, Calif., is one of the few American doctors who continued to live and work in Liberia throughout the Ebola crisis. His wife and a daughter rejoined him there in March 2015.
    Fankhauser now directs SIM's medical missions in Liberia.
    Fankhauser had been in Liberia since November 2013 and was practicing at ELWA Hospital when the Ebola outbreak began. He worked tirelessly with hospital staff to keep ELWA open and operating throughout the crisis, pausing for two short breaks with his family. ELWA's 130-acre campus housed half of Liberia's Ebola treatment beds during the height of the crisis.
    During the first two months of the outbreak, Fankhauser cared for multiple Ebola patients, including SIM missionary Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly of Samaritan's Purse. He also cared for SIM's Dr. Rick Sacra after his Ebola diagnosis, and assumed Sacra's duties at ELWA Hospital when Sacra returned to the U.S. for treatment. 
  • Debbie Eisenhut, MD – Salem, Ore.
    General surgeon Debbie Eisenhut left a successful surgical practice in her native Salem, Ore., to become a medical missionary.

    First serving with WorldVenture in Pakistan, Eisenhut has since served at SIM's ELWA Hospital in Monrovia. During the Ebola outbreak, she also treated both Nancy Writebol of SIM and Dr. Kent Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse while they were in Liberia.

    Eisenhut was instrumental in ELWA Hospital becoming a model for other hospitals in West Africa during the Ebola crisis, developing treatment facilities and screening processes, and offering other critical care medical services. She led the effort from March through August 2014. Because of her knowledge, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invited Eisenhut to train workers who were going to West Africa to combat the Ebola outbreak.
  • SIM USA President Bruce Johnson – Charlotte, N.C.
    Bruce Johnson led SIM's Ebola crisis response in 2014, also serving as the organization's primary spokesperson.
    He has served as president of SIM USA since 2009. SIM works in more than 65 countries to meet medical, educational, community development, public health and spiritual needs.
    Johnson's previous experience includes working for other Christian ministries and running a full-time consulting firm for non-profits.

SIM News Updates

  • The construction of a new SIM ELWA Hospital has resumed in partnership with Samaritan's Purse. The expansion will provide greater capability, medical training facilities, plus a wider range of medical services. SIM's ELWA Hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015.
  • A focus for SIM in Liberia is now working with Ebola survivors and those affected by Ebola through specialized medical treatment for survivors and trauma-healing workshops for families and others touched by the crisis.
  • Emory University Hospital, in partnership with SIM, has sent a team of eye doctors to provide care for Ebola survivors.
  • SIM is partnering with Texas Health Resources, one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health systems in the U.S., and the family of Thomas Eric Duncan to educate future Liberian doctors, nurses and physicians through an endowed scholarship fund. Duncan died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital two weeks after arriving from Liberia. The scholarship fund is for Liberians in medical training for future service to their fellow Liberians.

Those interested in the most current information about the Ebola outbreak and the medical response team at SIM's ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, can visit www.helpebola.org.

SIM (www.simusa.org) is an international Christian mission organization with a staff of around 4,000 workers from more than 60 nationalities. SIM's multicultural, multi-skilled teams serve among diverse people groups in nearly 70 countries on six continents. In addition to medicine, SIM serves in areas of education, community development, public health and Christian witness. While SIM stood for Sudan Interior Mission when it was founded in 1893, it is now a global mission known as SIM (pronounced S-I-M).

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Palmer Holt at 704-662-2569 or pholt@inchristcommunications.com