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Doctor Infected With Ebola May Be Flown to US

  • Kim Lewis

A U.S. permanent resident who contracted Ebola while working as a surgeon in Sierra Leone reportedly may be flown to the United States on Saturday to receive treatment.

Dr. Martin Salia, who also is a Sierra Leone citizen, likely will be treated at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, the Associated Press reported Friday, citing an unnamed federal government source. The center has cared for two other patients.

The U.S. State Department, in a statement issued late Thursday, said it was in touch with the family of a U.S. legal permanent resident working in Sierra Leone who'd contracted the disease. It said the man’s wife, who lives in Maryland, had sought help in determining whether he could be safely transported to the Nebraska medical center.

Taylor Wilson, a spokesman for the Nebraska medical center, told VOA Friday morning that the patient would be evaluated by a U.S. medical team once it reaches Sierra Leone. If deemed well enough to travel, the patient would be expected in Omaha Saturday afternoon.

Salia, 44, who was working at a major hospital in the capital of Freetown as part of his residency, is Sierra Leone’s sixth doctor to become infected with Ebola.

Wife awaits news

At home in the Washington suburb of New Carrollton, the man's wife, Isatu Salia, frantically awaits updates on his health. She said she has not been able to speak with him since his diagnosis.

Before that, he'd called and said "he was not feeling well-- so the fever persist[ed] and he had to go to one of the Ebola centers," Isatu Salia said. "When they did the first test [for Ebola], it was negative, so we were all happy. The fever still persist[ed] and he had to go again to see his primary care physician. So the second one came … it [was] negative. And the third one came positive.”.

She said she received a tearful call from her sister-in-law with the news that her husband had tested positive for Ebola.

"I just went down on the floor for two hours — I don’t even know what I was doing," Salia said.

Through tears, she described how she has desperately been trying to obtain information about her husband’s condition.

“He’s somewhere in the center. I have to hear from him. I don’t know what is going on,” Salia cried.

Her husband’s eldest sister, who works at the same hospital, has been able to obtain only limited information about Martin Salia. Isatu Salia said her sister-in-law even tried to volunteer at the Ebola center where the patient is being treated.

Family awaits news

Salia was working as a resident surgeon at a hospital that was not part of the Ebola center. It's unclear how he contracted the virus.

The Salias have two children, ages 20 and 12.

Isatu Salia described how they're coping with news of their father’s sickness: :The little one is a little bit quiet. He was not feeling well yesterday, but today he’s good. The older one is the one talking to me — 'that I will be fine in Jesus name.’ "

Unable to contain her emotions, Salia lamented, "He’s the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone that has contracted this disease, and the five, they died! I want them to save my husband—please—at least let me hear his voice. I know my husband. If I talk to him, I know he will be strong. I need to hear his voice. His phone is turned off. They wanted him to rest. I just need to hear his voice.”

VOA's Carol Guensburg contributed to this report.

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