Originally published in Black Christian News Service
A surgeon who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leone has passed away in a hospital in Nebraska, where he had been flown for treatment, officials announced Monday.
Dr Martin Salia, 44, had been described repeatedly by health workers as being much sicker than the Ebola patients previously brought to the U.S. for treatment.
“Dr Salia was suffering from advanced symptoms of Ebola when he arrived at the hospital Saturday, which included kidney and respiratory failure,” the Nebraska Medical Center said in a statement. “He was placed on dialysis, a ventilator and multiple medications to support his organ systems in an effort to help his body fight the disease. He also received a dose of convalescent plasma and ZMapp therapy was initiated on Saturday.”
The hospital had been treating Salia in its biocontainment unit that has successfully treated two other Ebola patients this fall.
Ebola has killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leona. Of the 10 people treated for the virus in the US, all but one has recovered.
After Salia arrived in Omaha, his ambulance to the hospital was accompanied by a single Nebraska State Patrol cruiser and a fire department vehicle – a subdued arrival in contrast to the August delivery of Dr. Rick Sacra, whose ambulance was flanked by numerous police cars, motorcycles and fire vehicles.
Salia had been working as a general surgeon at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown. It’s not clear whether he was involved in the care of Ebola patients. Kissy is not an Ebola treatment unit, but Salia worked in at least three other facilities, United Methodist News said, citing health ministry sources.
Salia, a Sierra Leone citizen who lives in Maryland, first showed Ebola symptoms on Nov. 6 but tested negative for the virus. He eventually tested positive on Monday.
The US State Department said it helped facilitate the transfer of Salia; the US Embassy in Freetown said he paid for the expensive evacuation. The travel costs and care of other Ebola patients flown to the US have been covered by the groups they worked for in West Africa.
Salia’s wife, Isatu Salia, said in a telephone interview that when she spoke to her husband early Friday his voice sounded weak and shaky. But he told her “I love you” in a steady voice, she said.
The two prayed together, and their children, ages 12 and 20, are coping, Isatu Salia said, calling her husband “my everything.”
Nebraska Medical Center spokesman Taylor Wilson said members of Salia’s family were not at the hospital Saturday, but were expected to arrive “in the near future.”
Sierra Leone is one of the three West Africa nations hit hard by an Ebola epidemic this year. Five other doctors in Sierra Leone have contracted Ebola, and all have died.