MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Dr. Tom Cairns of Bloomington had Ebola before it even had a name.
“We were working in Congo –known as Zaire at the time — as a medical missionary. I was two years into my time there, and a guy came in and was acutely ill, almost dead on arrival, from the illness,” he said.
Cairns was working as a medical missionary in the 1970s and remembers doing an autopsy where he nicked his glove with his scalpel. Two weeks later, the illness took over his body.
“Terrible flu-related type symptoms: headache, fever, rash, aching everywhere, tremendous fatigue,” he said.
The worst of it lasts two weeks and he says he was in a fog for most of the time.
“You know I was so sick and there was nothing more they could do. We had no way of evacuating at that point,” he said.
Cairns still can’t believe that he lived, and that his wife and others who cared for him did not get sick as well.
“It’s scary. I look back on it now and say it’s only the grace of God that saved me,” he said.
Cairns said it was four years later, when an outbreak occurred, that they named the disease, Ebola, after a nearby river.