American Ebola survivor visits Winnipeg

The second American infected with Ebola made a quick and quiet stop in Winnipeg Sunday.

Nancy Writebol, second American infected, survived after receiving experimental ZMapp vaccine

“It's an awful disease and it wracks your body,” says Ebola survivor

8 years ago
Duration 1:53
The second American infected with Ebola made a quick and quiet stop in Winnipeg Sunday.

The second American infected with Ebola made a quick and quiet stop in Winnipeg Sunday.

In July Nancy Writebol was airlifted from Liberia to a hospital in Atlanta. She was one of the very few who received the experimental drug, ZMapp, before supplies ran out.

Writebol was released from medical care three weeks later and is now free of the Ebola virus.

Winnipeg visit

On Sunday, Nancy and her husband Michael Writebol attended a service at Winnipeg’s Grant Memorial Church in Winnipeg where she spoke about her ordeal and received a standing ovation.
Michael Sherbino (left), senior pastor at Grant Memorial Church, sits next to Nancy (centre) and David Writebol (right). (Karen Pauls/CBC)

“It's an awful disease and it wracks your body,” she said. "You lose your dignity, there's loss of fluid, your body gets weak, there's diarrhea, vomiting, excruciating pain and fever. It's very painful."

Writebol was volunteering at a mission hospital in Liberia when she contracted Ebola. Her job was to make sure doctors and nurses were wearing the proper safety equipment to deal with Ebola patients. 

She was also in charge of ensuring medical workers went through a decontamination process upon finishing their shifts.

Writebol isn't certain where she was infected, but said she survived in large part because she received the ZMapp vaccine.

"If I took it and it worked, great. If I didnt' take it, the outcome was probably that I might not survive and so it didn't seem like a win-lose situation," said Writebol.

"If I took it and it worked, what other research could be done to help others and especially Africans?"

Writebol grateful for efforts of local scientists 

Writebol said she was grateful for receiving the experimental vaccine and wanted to send a message of gratitude to the Winnipeg scientists who helped develop the drug.

"There's so much gratitude for their continued work on the drug and the way they're desiring to help those in West Africa who are really suffering with Ebola," said Writebol. "My words are just, 'Thank you for what you're doing, don't stop. Please continue.'"

Unfortunately, Writebol wasn't able to meet the scientists she had hoped to. Her speech on Sunday, however, did inspire Grant Memorial Church-member Dr. Dwayne Funk.

"We all followed her story and Kent Brantley's story," said Funk, who teaches anesthesia and critical care at the University of Manitoba.

"Seeing them getting better and travel and share their story with the rest of the world, is quite impressive," said Funk, who is also part of an Ebola-preparedness team of medical professionals in Winnipeg.

Having survived, Writebol is now immune to the Ebola virus.

She has since donated her blood plasma to Craig Spencer, a New York physician who was infected with Ebola. He has since recovered and was released from a NYC hospital last week.