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8 December 2014
EBOLA NEWS - Ebola survivor Ian Crozier speaks for first time about illness
Ebola survivor Ian Crozier speaks for first time about illness
‘If I had stayed in Kenema, I would have been dead in a week,’ says US doctor given antibodies from British nurse Will Pooley
The US doctor who survived Ebola after being treated with antibodies from British nurse and fellow survivor Will Pooley has spoken for the first time about battling the disease.
Ian Crozier, who had not been named until now, said he was unable to remember the first three weeks he spent in an isolation ward at Emory hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, with the haemorrhagic virus. Pooley – who flew to the US to donate blood – said Crozier “got really sick. He got as bad as you can get.”
Crozier contracted Ebola in Kenema government hospital in Sierra Leone where he was working for the World Health Organisation, along with Pooley.
The doctor was doing his rounds on 6 September when the first symptoms, a headache and fever, struck. Three days earlier Pooley had been discharged from the Royal Free hospital in London saying he felt “wonderfully lucky” to be alive.
Crozier, who had arranged Pooley’s medical evacuation, had never expected to be airlifted out of Sierra Leone two weeks later.
The doctor took pictures of himself during the flight home showing swelling in his face and a developing rash. “I had seen seven, eight, nine, 10 people a day die from what I had,” he told the New York Times. “If I had stayed in Kenema, I would have been dead in a week.”
No one knows why some patients survive Ebola and others do not. Speaking on Monday from Freetown in Sierra Leone, where he has returned to help fight the disease, Pooley recalled how close to death Crozier was when he arrived in Atlanta.
“Everyone thought he was going to die,” Pooley said. “When I arrived he hadn’t yet been put on a ventilation machine. When I first saw him, he was lying on the bed gasping for breath, like I’d seen so many patients in Kenema who went on to die. He was completely unresponsive. That night they intubated him to ventilate his lungs. It was life support effectively.”
Crozier, who was also put on a dialysis machine after kidney failure, had “got as bad as you can get”, he added. “His viral load was huge. I think mine was something like 10m, but his viral load was like 20bn. His blood was just riddled with the virus and he was just not producing any relevant antibodies.
“It is amazing he survived. It shows anyone can survive if you can get that level of treatment.”
Pooley said no could say for definite how much his blood plasma helped, but that he had been told his blood was full of “relevant antibodies” before the plasma was extracted. “His [Crozier’s] viral load turned as soon as he got the plasma, the tests indicated a lower number.”
The Briton said it would be some time before Crozier was fit enough to return to Sierra Leone. “He has got a long road of physiotherapy in front of him.”
Like Pooley, Crozier says he hopes to return in the next few months. “There’s still a great deal left to be done,” he said in the interview, noting that his recovery should mean he is immune to future infection with the virus.
The 44-year-old is now back in Phoenix with his family, recovering his strength after losing nearly 30lb (14kg) of weight while sick.
His interview comes as Sierra Leone announced a 10th doctor had died from the disease. Three died over the weekend including Thomas Rogers, a surgeon who worked at the Connaught hospital in Freetown where Pooley now works. Dr Aiah Solomon Konoyeima and Dr Dauda Koroma also died from the disease.
Pooley spent 10 days in hospital, making a swift recovery after intensive hydration and a treatment of the experimental drug ZMapp. Crozier spent 40 days in hospital and was “by far sickest patient” Emory has treated for Ebola, Jay Varkey, an infectious-disease specialist, told the New York Times.