Hello, my name is Craig Spencer. I am a physician and aid worker for Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF. I’m proud to be among the ranks of more than 3,300 Doctors Without Borders responding to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
I wanted to start by taking a moment to thank the medical team here at HHC Bellevue Hospital Center for the tremendous care and support they have provided to me to survive this virus. Since I was admitted on October 23, I have received an exceptional level of medical treatment, support, and encouragement from the whole medical and administrative team. I would especially like to thank Dr Laura Evans who has primarily managed my care since I first arrived and has been with me every day. Today I am healthy and no longer infectious.
My recovery from Ebola speaks to the effectiveness of the protocols in place for health staff returning from West Africa at the time of my infection. I am a living example of how those protocols work, and of how early detection and isolation is critical to both surviving Ebola and ensuring that it is not transmitted to others.
While my case has garnered international attention, it is important to remember that my infection represents but a fraction of the more than 13,000 reported cases to date in West Africa — the center of the outbreak, where families are being torn apart and communities destroyed.
It is for this reason that I volunteered to work in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders. For over five weeks, I worked in an Ebola treatment center in Guéckédou, the epicenter of the outbreak.
During this time, I cried as I held children who were not strong enough to survive the virus. But, I also experienced immense joy when patients I treated were cured and invited me into their family as a brother upon discharge. Within a week of my diagnosis, many of these same patients called my personal phone to wish me well and ask if there was any way they could contribute to my care. Most incredibly, I watched my Guinean colleagues, who have been on the front lines since day one and saw friends and family members die, continue to fight to save their communities with so much compassion and dignity. They are the heroes that we are not talking about.
Please join me in turning our attention back to West Africa, and ensuring that medical volunteers and other aid workers do not face stigma and threats upon their return home. Volunteers need to be supported to help fight this outbreak at its source.
I am immensely thankful for all of the encouragement and support that I have received from my family, so many friends, and complete strangers over the past few weeks. In addition, I would like to thank my home institution, Columbia University Medical Center, especially the chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Joseph Underwood, for the unprecedented support I have received from the time I decided to deploy until after my diagnosis.
Lastly, I would like to publicly recognize my deep appreciation for Doctors Without Borders. I cannot begin to mention how well they have helped manage this difficult time for both myself and my family.
Finally, I would like to thank in advance the media for respecting my right, and my family’s right, to privacy. I will not be commenting publicly beyond this statement, and I urge you to focus your attention where it is most urgently needed, at the source of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from health care. For more information, please visit www.doctorswithoutborders.org.