Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Craig Spencer, the New York doctor who contracted Ebola while treating Ebola patients in West Africa last year and later recovered from the disease, has written an essay in which he denies all of the labels he was given — “fraud,” “hipster,” and “hero.”
Spencer’s essay, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, notes that he kept a journal while in West Africa to help assess his “perceived level of risk of being infected with the deadly virus.” In that journal, he marked how much risk each day’s work had put him at, checking off “minimal risk” every day. Still, he was checked into Bellevue Hospital with Ebola in October 2014.
While working in West Africa, Spencer says he “was fueled by compassion and the immense challenge of caring for patients with Ebola.” After returning, the 33-year-old said he felt “depressed for the first time in my life,” citing the suffering he had seen and exhaustion.
“The morning of my hospitalization,” Spencer wrote, “I woke up knowing something was wrong. I felt different than I had since my return — I was more tired, warm, breathing fast.”
“My activities before I was hospitalized were widely reported and highly criticized,” Spencer continued. “People feared riding the subway or going bowling because of me…I was labeled a fraud, a hispter, and a hero.”
“The truth is I am none of those things,” Spencer says. “I’m just someone who answered a call for help and was lucky enough to survive.”
Spencer also said that he understood the “fear that gripped the country” in the wake of his illness. Still, he says he criticized the media, which he says “sold hype with flashy headlines…abdicating their responsibility for informing public opinion and influencing public policy,” and politicians who “took advantage of the panic to try to appear presidential instead of supporting a sound, science-based public health response.”
“When we look back on this epidemic, I hope we’ll recognize that fear caused our initial hesitance to respond — and caused us to respond poorly when we finally did,” Spencer concluded. “I know how real the fear of Ebola is, but we need to overcome it. We all lose when we allow irrational fear…to supersede pragmatic public health preparedness.”
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