As he faced a roomful of reporters and cameras Thursday, Dr. Kent Brantly looked as healthy as the physicians and nurses surrounding him at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Over the past two weeks, these health workers – five doctors and 21 nurses – had been treating Brantly in an isolation unit for the often-fatal Ebola virus. He contracted it in Liberia while treating other victims of the disease as a doctor for Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief agency based in Boone.
But he and those who treated him were all now meeting the press because Brantly, dressed in a blue shirt and khakis, had finally been released from the Atlanta hospital – virus-free.
“I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family,” said Brantly, 33, who was also joined by his wife, Amber. “As a medical missionary, I never imagined myself in this position.”
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Brantly took no questions, but he did offer a narrative of his journey, which started last October, when he and his family arrived in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, for a two-year stint with Samaritan’s Purse.
At that point, he said, “Ebola was not on the radar. We moved to Liberia because God called us to serve the people (there).”
In March, Brantly got word that Ebola was in Guinea and had spread to Liberia. By June, when the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia got its first Ebola patient, he and his “amazing crew … were ready,” he said.
Brantly said he and the others at the hospital, including Charlotte missionary Nancy Writebol, who also contracted Ebola, “took every precaution to protect ourselves” even as they offered care to their patients.
On July 23, he told the reporters, he woke up “feeling under the weather.” After the diagnosis that he himself had become infected, he got sicker and weaker. Still, he said, “I prayed that God would help me be faithful even in my illness.”
On Thursday, now looking like the picture of health, the Texas-based Brantly asked for prayers for the people of Liberia and West Africa, who are still battling the Ebola outbreak. He added that he hoped his sickness drew attention to the plight of those still suffering and the need to do “everything possible” to end this scourge.
Brantly also acknowledged the thousands, even millions of people around the globe who had prayed for his recovery.
He credited God with saving his life, “a direct answer,” he said, to those many prayers.
But as Brantly left the Thursday press conference, he didn’t forget those Atlanta health workers who had treated him. When he had said his peace, he retreated from the microphone and hugged each doctor and nurse.