Dr. Philip Z. Ireland on Friday, August 15, triumphantly walked from behind the fences of the Ebola isolation unit within the hospital compound of the Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA). As he turned the corner, he raised both hands to the delight of his family members and colleagues from the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, who had gathered at ELWA-2 isolation unit to welcome him back after crossing the deadly Ebola virus line.
Dr. Ireland was one of two Liberian Medical Doctors, for whom the "experimental drug/Serum" was brought in from the US.
According to Dr. Billy C. Johnson, Chief Medical Officer, JFK, who was on hand to receive Dr. Ireland, he told our Health Correspondent that Dr. Ireland did not use any of the serum or drug as his condition had very much improved by the time the drug arrived in the country last week for him and Dr. Abraham Borbor, Liberia's only in-country Internist.
Dr. Johnson also stated that Dr. Ireland’returning to work was up to him and would depend on how psychologically prepared he is to return to help save lives.
Both Drs. Ireland and Borbor work for the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Liberia's biggest referral hospital in Monrovia.
Dr. Ireland's JFK colleagues had gathered in their number to welcome back a colleague, who some of them said had been resurrected from the dead. They burst into a Christian song praising God, some shouting "Thank you, Jesus!" Dr. Ireland walked out of the main withholding facility with both hands raised high, as those who had come to await him kept praising God for their son, friend, loved one, workmate and brother's revival. They had also gathered because only a few weeks ago, one of the hospital’s senior doctors, Dr. Samuel Brisbane had succumbed to the virus.
Dr. Ireland had stayed at least three weeks in the isolation center. During that period, he had turned very grey, which was not the case before he was admitted; but when he came out, his beard and hair were all very grey, with hardly a string of black hair visible on his head. One of his colleagues said his being grey was probably due to depression and worry, “because the Ebola virus kills at least 90 percent of its sufferers; and for him to be alive is by God’s miracle,” as there are no known cures for the disease.
Mr. Earnest G. Smith, a Social Worker at JFK, who volunteered to go into the isolation regularly to speak with Dr. Ireland and other patients just to help them develop the confidence that despite the condition they can recover, said it took a few days before he could get Dr. Ireland to really start speaking with him.
“Initially,” Smith said, “he was depressed. But I managed to get him to talk after few days and every time I went in, he did not want me to leave him. However, he had psychologically built his mind that he was going to recover. Now we are happy he is out,” Smith told our correspondent.
Dr. Ireland’s wife, Mrs. Rita Rose Ireland, was so overjoyed to see her husband walk from behind the zinc fence. Earlier, while preparations were going on inside the isolation unit for her husband to come out, she had told the Daily Observer that when she heard the news about her husband being “absolutely free of the virus,” she had shouted and sang praises to God. According to the doctor’s wife, for a number of days, there was no communication with her husband, and no one on the outside was telling her anything about his wellbeing even if she asked.
“That made me start to think that something bad had happened to him and no one wanted to tell me. So when I got the call that he was well and would be released I just shouted with joy and praised God for His miracle,” Mrs. Ireland said.
In a very brief chat, Dr. Ireland told our Health Correspondent that he was glad to be out.