For Dr. Richard Sacra, the third of seven Americans infected with Ebola to date, life is hardly back to normal since he was declared virus-free after three weeks in a hospital isolation unit. But he’s glad for life, period.
“I praise God,” Sacra tells PEOPLE in a special report on Ebola in this week’s issue. “I wish that every single person who has Ebola is able to get the same kind of treatment I received.”
While two Americans, Texas Health Presbyterian nurses Nina Pham, 26, and Amber Vinson, 29, remain hospitalized with the virus, five others have overcome the illness with the help of expert medical care. Several are expressing gratitude for their good fortune.
Journalist Ashoka Mukpo, who contracted Ebola while covering the outbreak in Africa for NBC News, was cleared to leave Nebraska Medical Center on Wednesday. “The knowledge that there’s no more virus in my blood is a profound relief,” Mukpo, 33, Tweeted. “Wish everyone who got sick could feel this.”
For nurses Pham and Vinson, who contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian immigrant who unwittingly carried the virus to Dallas on Sept. 20 and later died, there is hope in the successful treatment of others. But the road to recovery is not easy.
“There’s good days and there are some bad days,” says missionary aid worker Nancy Writebol, 59, who, along with Dr. Kent Brantley, was one of the first two Americans infected. She has been out of the hospital since Aug. 19.
She vividly recalls the pain of Ebola tearing through her internal tissues. “Just to have my husband put his hand on my leg, it was excruciating pain,” she says. “My stamina is slowly returning. It’s not painful, not like it was when I was in the hospital. I just feel like every day is a step forward.”
• With reporting by CAITLIN KEATING, TARA FOWLER and DARLA ATLAS
For more of PEOPLE’s special report on Ebola in America, pick up the new issue on newsstands Friday and follow breaking updates on PEOPLE.com
For more information on Ebola, go to CDC’s Ebola site.