'This Week' Game Changer: Ebola Heroes

As Ebola ravaged the world with fear and thousands of fatalities, ABC News' Dr. Richard Besser reports on the heroes who emerged on the front lines.
6:41 | 12/28/14

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Transcript for 'This Week' Game Changer: Ebola Heroes
Test T When the world health organization first declared an ebola outbreak in March, little did anyone know that the real crises in three small west african countries would create such an epidemic of panic right here in America. Nine months later the hype scare is over here but in the heart of the hot zone, the fight against a deadly disease continues. ABC's chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser reports on the heros waging that battle. Reporter: It's a virus so dangerous that just to walk among patients takes elaborate precautions. Any gap in the protective gear can mean the difference between life and death. There's not one speck of my body that's exposed. Reporter: Isolation wards in Liberia with dazed patients, manned by overwhelmed care givers. Do you worry working here that you could get ebola? Sometimes it's scary but you have to help out. Reporter: Outside in bustling Monrovia, a poorly conceived attempt at quarantine. They've been in this compound for seven days? Yeah. 8 days. Reporter: With fences, barbed wire, even string. This is the line and the idea is that the germs will stay on that side of the line? Yeah. Reporter: There's no cure for ebola and no vaccine. The disease spreads through touching body fluids. Care givers like family members, medical workers and those who bury the bodies are most at risk. I have to say that there are few things that I've done in medicine that are as nerve racking as going into this place. Reporter: At the epicenter of the outbreak, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, heros have stepped in, putting their own lives at risk to save others. You are first going to enter the suspect section and I will show you a few patients that are suspect. Reporter: Dr. Jerry brown, a liberiaen surgeon took me inside an isolation ward where more than 50 patients were being treated. It's one of the most hopeful things I've seen here in Liberia is the type of care and the way he dealt with the patients. There's one patient in there who said to Dr. Brown, he said you're god. You gave me life. Dr. Brown said no, no, I'm not god. Reporter: Dr. Phil Ip Ireland wasn't even taking care of ebola patients but contracted ebola while working in the emergency room. Did you think you were going to die? When I went into shock I said, wow, if I don't get an iv line placed in with fluids, I'm going to die. Tell me about that moment when you walked out of the hospital. I felt like I walked out of the jaws of death. Reporter: Like other survivors, Dr. Ireland went back to work to save his neighbors. Locals were joined by volunteers and charities from around the globe to help build makeshift hospitals, teach decontamination methods, and treat the sick. My job in the ebola unit or in the isolation unit was to make sure that doctors were suited up properly in their personal protective gear. Those are critical jobs. Very critical. And I felt the weight of that, I can tell you. Reporter: Missionaries Nancy writebol and Dr. Kent Brantley were the first Americans to contract the disease while working for samaritan's purse and S.I.M. I was taking care of sick people before they had been isolated. It's a scary time. We have healthcare workers getting sick and that scares healthcare workers who might otherwise want to respond. Reporter: That fear then spread to the U.S. The first case of the deadly disease diagnosed on U.S. Soil, a major American city on high alert. Reporter: Thomas Eric Duncan's diagnosis was at first missed and it sent a city into panic. His family put into quarantine. After his death, two nurses who treated him became the next patients. At some point there was a breach in protocol and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection. Reporter: Texas presbyterian nurses Nina and amber became patients in the same isolation rooms where they had worked and then were transferred to facilities better equipped to deal with infectious disease, both surviving, perhaps in part thanks to the plasma donated by Dr. Brantley. As a nurse I have a special appreciation for the care I have received from so many people. We didn't get into this profession to be safe. We got into this profession to serve humanity, to try and cure disease, and those are not safe endeavors. At the request of the liberiaen government, we're going to establish a command center in Liberia to support efforts across the region. Reporter: It became clear, the only hope of keeping ebola away from here, send help them. This is the Langley air force base, the first U.S. Military team to take part in operation united assistance. I got the phone call and we had 72 hours to get it together. This was taking place at a time when all across America people were afraid of ebola. There was anxiety, certainly. The world didn't know how bad this was. The average person going out the door, those 34 members, they're going through their mind about what does this mean to me and what is my real risk going to be. Reporter: The airman's mission, build field hospitals and train workers so that liberiaens and workers alike can get treatment if they get sick. You were the first group of airmen to go into the hot zone? Initially I was a little anxious of course. It's something new, something I haven't done before, but I was really excited to be able to complete the mission and help another country. And it wasn't just any other country for you? No, sir. My dad is from the Ivory Coast and I have family that's in Liberia as well. So it was really good to know that what I was doing was going to help people that I loved as well. Time magazine just named ebola responders people of the year. How does that feel? Very, very humbling. There are so many people out there right now, doctors, nurses, various individuals who are contributing to this fight. Do you feel like a hero? I wouldn't say hero but I'm very proud of what our team accomplished. Reporter: Game changers all. Doctors, nurses, Americans, africans holding fear at bay. Holding a virus back. You never know exactly what you're going to find until you step off that plane. And yet, no one flinched. They went out and they executed it perfectly. You should have seen the smiles on their faces when they came back. They were very proud of what they had done. Reporter: For "This week," I'm Dr. Richard Besser, ABC news, New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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