Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dear Praying Friends,

If you followed the news over the last month, you have heard that ELWA hospital has been at the center of the Ebola crisis in Liberia.  We are praising God for his mercy to our missionary colleagues, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who have been completely healed from the Ebola virus.  They have been reunited with their families and are taking some time to rest and recover their strength. 

The healthcare system in Liberia has had to go through a complete reboot after every single hospital in the city of Monrovia closed down to be decontaminated with bleach water as a result of Ebola cases landing in Emergency Rooms, outpatient clinics and medical wards. When I arrived on the 4th of August, ELWA hospital was in the middle of this process.

On August 6th, Dr. Brown, the medical director at ELWA hospital, opened the doors to Obstetrics patients. When the patients started arriving, they had often been to several other hospitals and traveled for hours seeking care. More than 35 cesarean sections were performed to save women and their babies in the first 20 days—sometimes two or three a day.  This past Sunday when I was on call, several women presented for care in various stages of labor and three wound up requiring C-sections.  One of them was a teenager with a full term pregnancy who had developed eclampsia, a combination of elevated blood pressure and seizures that would be detected in advance if she had been able to attend her regular pre-natal clinic.  She was brought by her family, sprawled across the back seat of a taxi, unresponsive and still seizing occasionally. We had to give her a general anesthetic and perform an emergency cesarean.  She is doing well now with her baby and will soon go home.

There are other medical emergencies that cannot be neglected much longer. Last week, I had a phone call from a friend to appeal for their neighbor, a 13-year-old girl who was very sick with severe abdominal pain. They had been to several hospitals but none was able to accept her.  The family was desperate.  Dr. Brown, who is a general surgeon, agreed to evaluate her even though the hospital was only open for obstetrics. Her exam indicated peritonitis, an infection in her abdomen, which would definitely require surgery.  We waited all day Sunday for Dr. Brown who was busy caring for critically ill Ebola patients in the treatment center. Finally he came to see Lisa at around 8:30 p.m. after what had already been an exhausting day. It was clear that her surgery could not be put off, so we started operating at about 10 p.m. and ended after midnight.  Dr. Brown found four separate holes in her intestine—perforations due to a typhoid fever infection.  Each hole had to be repaired and then her abdomen had to be washed out.  I spent the night on the pediatric ward monitoring her progress post-op, as she was quite ill with fever and difficulty breathing after the surgery.  Today I am happy to report that Lisa is improving and slowly recovering (she is pictured here.)   But she is just one of so many people in Liberia who are at risk because of the Ebola tsunami that swept through an already fragile healthcare system.  

We are getting news now that a couple other smaller facilities in Monrovia are opening, allowing ELWA Hospital to open soon for additional services without being overwhelmed with a huge flood of patients. On Thursday, the 28th, we held a training session for all of our staff to review new triage procedures and infection control techniques to help protect us from unknowingly getting exposed to the Ebola virus.  We hope to gradually increase our services over the next couple of weeks to include children and adults, but we must first make some changes to our building to allow us to triage everyone before they enter the hospital grounds to check for any signs of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).  A large shipment of personal protective gear arrived yesterday from our partner, Samaritan’s Purse. This has been one of the key issues in reopening—ensuring that we have adequate protective equipment.  So we are praising God for that!

Meanwhile, the number of people contracting Ebola continues to rise. WHO predicts the final numbers will be in the tens of thousands.  The isolation and treatment wards on our property are packed and patients continue to come. While I am not involved in the units, Dr. Brown is passionate about ensuring they provide the best possible care so he is dividing his time between facilities. Thankfully, many people are surviving if they come when they first show symptoms.  We rejoiced greatly that one of the ELWA nurses was released from the unit last week.

Please continue to pray!  Here are a few requests:

1.   That the international response to the Ebola epidemic will be vigorous!  Right now, the systems put in place like ambulance transport and even the burial teams to dispose of bodies are overwhelmed.

2.   Pray for ELWA’s ministry at this time, that we would be able to make a difference for Christ in the lives of those who are sick.

3.   Pray for the ELWA staff, for safety and protection from infection with Ebola. 

4.   Pray specifically for Dr. Brown and for Joe Wankollie, our SIM-ELWA Deputy Director who is running the whole show at this time. They are carrying a very heavy load.

In His Strength,  Rick


Anonymous said...

Thank you Rick, for all you do - this is the real work and a great blessing to many people. I am honoured to know you and pray for your strength and wisdom. The Lord is there in the midst with you. Blessings, my friend! Stefan

Anonymous said...

You are the hands and feet of God. Continue to do this good work. Be assured of our prayers for your stamina and health. Thank you!
Marilyn and Hank

Anonymous said...

Thank you and God bless you in this crucial work. Tom Thompson

MShep2 said...

Rick, keep up the good work. We miss you and pray for you.

Anonymous said...

We are praying for you and your family. Dave and Cathy Parker

Betty said...

What you are doing there Rick, with the help of Almighty God is simply mind-boggling. Will be getting more prayer warriors activated. Betty

Joan Hume said...

Praying, praying, praying for you, Rick, for healing, for God to be glorified in you and through you, and for the international community to step forward to provide the help that is so urgently needed.

Much love, Joanie and Mark H.

Anonymous said...

God bless you brother!

May you be healed quickly

Farm School Marm said...

Prayers for your full recovery - and the example you are for others as you have stepped out in faith.

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5

Laura said...

Dear Dr. Sacra,
My name is Laura Fuertes. I am a RN at Memorial Hospital and have worked with you in L&D several times. I want you to know my prayers are with you and all who have dedicated their work for the people who are most in need. Stay strong and know myself, my family and coworkers are keeping you in our prayers.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sacra,
Please know that I and millions of other Americans are praying for your complete recovery. Stay strong! Nothing is impossible with our God.
Your sister in Christ,

John said...

My name is John and I am from the worcester area and just read the doctors blogs as well as the article in today's worcester telegram and gazette. I don't know Dr Socara and never had the pleasure of meeting him. This article brought tears to my eyes and never knew how bad the health issues are in that country. It is so humbling to see how blessed the people in Africa are to have such awesome caring doctors, nurses and health providers such as Dr Socara. I will pray for you Doctor Socara and your family and friends, you are an angel from heaven and have truly inspired me and I don't even know you. God bless you. And may God heal you quickly so that you can get back to your family. God is an awesome God who performs miracles and headings everyday. I pray this for you sir. God bless you and you family.

Anonymous said...

Praying an unending prayer for your quick recovery. God is sure to heal his son!!
God bless you!!

Autumn King Garcia said...

Rick, i just heard the news and we are praying so hard. We serve a faithful and merciful God! Be strong and know that you've got a huge churchful of strangers in San Diego praying for you, Debbie, and the boys.

Jen said...

Rick, Dave and I are assiduously praying for you. We know that your times are truly in God's hands. We are also praying that God gives supernatural strength and grace to Debbie, Max, Jared and Caleb. We have asked many, many people to pray as well, who I know join people all over the world who are praying for you. I am praying also that God is glorified in all of this. I know that God has you in the palm of His hand Rick... Much love, Dave and Jennifer Brock

Anonymous said...

Greetings Deb and Rick,
You may or may not remember us, Lin and George Bourie. Holden Chapel days long ago.
However we remember you both as a young couple, I believe you were still finishing med school Rick. You both impressed us so much and we have thought of you often as our passion for missions grew over the years. Know that you are prayed for daily and the people of Liberia as well. We have a dear friend from Liberia Torli who serves in a church in Boston. Much love sent and diligent prayers offered. Thank you for all you do for the people of Liberia and our Lord.
Lin & George

Carrie - Worth Pinning said...

Prayers for your healing and family

Tim Brannagan said...

Rick and Debbie,
You are in our prayers. May our Lord be your strength and shield.
Tim & Nancy Brannagan said...

Get well soon.

Anonymous said...

We have been praying for the Ebola crises in West Africa for months now. Specifically, we've been praying for you, brother, and your sweet family since learning of your contraction of Ebola. My prayer is that this sickness that is spreading throughout West Africa be stemmed soon, and that God would cause it all to work for His glory. May the Gospel be a greater influence than Ebola in West Africa! I love you brother. Steve from Senegal

Autumn King Garcia said...

Still praying with all our hearts! The King family loves you guys!

Henry Wasserman said...

Rick - My Name is Henry Wasserman. I used to come to your house on Woodridge Road in Wayland Ma, when you were very young.

I was a friend of your brother Steve. We shared the same grade in school. I also remember your brother Doug.

What a lovely family. Your mom would cook pancakes from scratch and could whip up a nice bowl of cream of wheat!

Great memories. So glad you are doing well. And may God Bless you Richly for the work you are doing for the kingdom of Christ.

- Henry