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UPDATE: Dr. Sacra Becomes Official Husker Fan

Sept 24, 2014 Update - Dr. Sacra Becomes Official Husker Fan

Dr. Sacra

As we move closer to the release of Dr. Richard Sacra, the patient being treated for the Ebola virus at The Nebraska Medical Center, he and his wife Debbie wanted to share this photo. It was taken by his wife, Debbie, while Dr. Sacra watched the Huskers’ 41-31 victory over the University of Miami Saturday night. The shirt was a gift from Angela Hewlett, M.D., associate medical director of the Biocontainment Unit and one of the doctors caring for Dr. Sacra.

Dr. Sacra also enjoyed his first Runza sandwich this afternoon, which is a Nebraska fast food staple, after he and his family dined on Omaha steaks from a local steakhouse last night.

Doctors are still awaiting test results that will show when the Ebola virus is no longer in his bloodstream.

Sept. 22, 2014 Update - Doctors Release Name Of Research Drug Given To Dr. Sacra

Doctors caring for Dr. Rick Sacra, the patient who contracted the Ebola virus in West Africa, are confirming that the research drug used to treat him is called TKM-Ebola, manufactured by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation. TKM-Ebola is an anti-Ebola virus RNAi therapeutic, which stops the virus from replicating.

"We were pleased that TKM-Ebola was available to treat Dr. Sacra,” said Phil Smith, M.D., medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Although the FDA just authorized Tekmira to provide TKM-Ebola for treatment under expanded access protocols to patients with the Ebola virus, there’s still a very short supply."

Dr. Sacra received TKM-Ebola for seven days while being treated at The Nebraska Medical Center. Treatment started the day he arrived. Dr. Sacra also received a blood transfusion from Ebola survivor, Dr. Kent Brantly, along with other supportive therapy to help his body fight off the virus.

While TKM-Ebola may have played a role in helping Dr. Sacra recover, doctors here caution against thinking it might be a magic bullet. "We need to carefully assess all the treatments being provided to patients with the Ebola virus," said Angela Hewlett, M.D., associate medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at The Nebraska Medical Center. "We don’t know if it was Dr. Sacra’s own immune system, the supportive therapy we provided, the blood transfusion from Dr. Brantly, TKM-Ebola or a combination of all these factors that helped Dr. Sacra recover. What’s important is that we pool all of our treatment resources and continue to study what is most effective in treating the virus."

Dr. Sacra’s condition continues to improve and he may be well enough to leave the unit very soon. The CDC requires two negative blood tests 24 hours apart in order for a patient to be declared virus free.

For more information on TKM-Ebola, visit www.tekmira.com.

Sept. 17, 2014 Update - Doctors Say Sacra Should Make Full Recovery

The doctors caring for Dr. Richard Sacra, the patient who contracted the Ebola virus while treating patients in West Africa, are optimistic about his departure from the hospital. "Based on what we’re seeing now, we expect him to make a full recovery," said Angela Hewlett, MD, associate medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at The Nebraska Medical Center. "However, we are still somewhat cautious because of the severity and unknown factors of this disease. We know from experience how other patients look as their condition improves, but since we have so little experience treating patients with Ebola, that tempers our optimism a little bit."

"He looks great in person," said Phil Smith, MD, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at The Nebraska Medical Center. "We’re hopeful the latest round of lab data reflects what we’re seeing in his room."

Dr. Smith said the first set of blood samples sent to the CDC showed a decreasing amount of the virus in his blood from the first day through his fifth day of treatment. Results from the second set of samples should be available soon. Doctors also said the research drug being given to Dr. Sacra was administered for seven days, but he is no longer receiving it.

"We’re still working on improving his nutrition and his fluid intake," said Dr. Smith. "We would like to make him fully independent of his IV, but we’re not quite there yet." Still, both doctors caring for Dr. Sacra are optimistic. "For Dr. Sacra to be discharged, there has to be two negative blood tests done 24 hours apart," added Dr. Hewlett. "If the second set of blood samples continues to trend in the same way the first set did, we’ll be able to administer those tests fairly soon."

Sept. 15, 2014 Update - Dr. Sacra’s Condition Improving By The Day

Talking to friends and colleagues around the world

As the condition of Dr. Rick Sacra, the patient being treated for the Ebola virus at The Nebraska Medical Center, continues to improve, staff members are trying to find new ways to keep him entertained inside his room in the hospital’s Biocontainment Unit.

"They’ve brought in some books and a chess board, so that’s been helpful," said Debbie Sacra, Dr. Sacra’s wife. "Someone also brought in a Nerf hoop, which Rick discovered he might need a lot more practice with. Fortunately, he still has plenty of time to sharpen those skills," she said, jokingly.

Debbie says while Dr. Sacra still physically tires very easily, mentally he’s becoming sharper every day. "He’s been able to have long conversations with several people he’s close to," said Debbie. "He spoke with his pastor at Holden Chapel in our hometown of Holden, Mass. along with a colleague of his in Liberia, Dr. John Fankhouser. Staff members have also commented on how talkative he’s becoming."

Meanwhile, the doctors caring for Dr. Sacra say he had a good weekend and they continue to be pleased with his progress.

Sept. 12, 2014 Update - Dr. Sacra’s Appetite, Condition Improves

After a full week receiving treatment for the Ebola virus in the Biocontainment Unit at The Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Rick Sacra’s appetite is finally starting to come back.

"He really wanted some ice cream," said Debbie Sacra, Dr. Sacra’s wife. "He’d tried a few different kinds over the last several days, and none of them were all that appetizing to him. But we finally found something in the hospital convenience store that really hit the spot – a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough."

Doctors caring for Dr. Sacra said they wanted him to start taking in at least 1000 calories a day by mouth. With that pint of ice cream checking in at just over 1100 calories, he might easily reach that goal. "Hard to believe it, but ice cream was just what the doctor ordered," said Debbie.

Debbie also said her husband’s personality is coming back. "He’s really starting to give people a hard time. That’s definitely a sign he’s starting to feel better," she said.

Sept. 11, 2014 Update - Condition of Patient with Ebola Continues to Improve

Doctors caring for Dr. Rick Sacra, the man who contracted the Ebola virus while treating patients in West Africa say his condition continues to improve.

“We’re pleased with his progress,” said Phil Smith, MD, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at The Nebraska Medical Center. “His lab values are improving and he’s becoming more alert and interactive. We continue to be encouraged by what we’re seeing up to this point.”

Dr. Sacra’s family members tell doctors they’re starting to see more of his personality emerge each day. “He’s kind of becoming his normal self,” said Angela Hewlett, MD, associate medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Family members continue to speak with Dr. Sacra on a regular basis via video conference and that’s a big help for both the patient and his family.”

The staff caring for Dr. Sacra is also faring well. “Everyone has been positive and upbeat,” said Shelly Schwedhelm, director of ED, trauma and emergency preparedness at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Everyone has been able to get some much-needed rest and we’re making sure everyone is taking good care of themselves as well as Dr. Sacra.”

Schwedhelm said staff members continue to come forward who want to volunteer to work in the unit. “We’re looking to add more members to the team caring for Dr. Sacra,” said Schwedhelm. “It’s been encouraging to see that trend and it’s extremely helpful to be able to add even more depth to the unit.

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