A Fort Worth-trained doctor who survived the deadly Ebola virus thanked doctors, family and God after his recovery and discharge from the hospital were announced Thursday at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital.
“Today is a miraculous day,” said Dr. Kent Brantly, looking healthy and happy, holding hands with his wife during a televised news conference. “I am thrilled to be alive, well and to be reunited with my family.”
Another American who survived Ebola, Nancy Writebol, was released Tuesday and has requested privacy.
Brantly walked into the news conference with his wife, Amber, and joined the medical team that treated him behind a podium. He urged continued prayers for the victims of Ebola in West Africa.
“I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life,” Brantly said. “Continue to pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa.”
Brantly did not take questions from the media and requested privacy while he regains his strength and reconnects with his family at an undisclosed location. When he finished his statement, Brantly went down the line of people behind him, hugging many of the hospital staff members who cared for him, before the couple left.
He was a resident at JPS Hospital before he left for Africa, and the hospital community in Fort Worth has followed Brantly’s progress. The JPS Foundation has established a fund to help the family replace personal and household items that were left in Liberia and had to be destroyed.
Dr. Bruce Ribner, medical director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit at Emory University Hospital, started the news conference by announcing Writebol and Brantly’s departures from the hospital and saying they do not pose a public health threat.
“We are tremendously pleased with Dr. Brantly’s and Mrs. Writebol’s recovery,” Ribner said. He described them both as courageous and determined and added, “Both of the patients’ families provided tremendous support to this treatment and process.”
Brantly and Writebol were evacuated from Liberia earlier this month after they fell ill with the virus, a form of hemorraghic fever, and flown to the Atlanta hospital.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is one of the largest ever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus has torn through Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, leaving more than 1,300 people dead.
Brantly contracted Ebola while he was treating patients in Liberia as part of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief. He said it wasn’t on the radar last October, when he and his family moved to the West African country because “God called us to serve the people of Liberia.”
Brantly said they took every precaution to protect themselves when the first Ebola patients surfaced in Liberia. He said he poured himself into the work of helping victims, but woke up July 23 feeling under the weather.
“My life took an unexpected turn as I was diagnosed with the Ebola disease,” he said.
Brantly said he is grateful for the prayers that were said for him, for Emory, for the Liberian community and for Samaritan’s Purse.
“I am forever thankful to God for saving my life,” he said.
Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham issued a statement on the relief organization’s website.
“Over the past few weeks I have marveled at Dr. Brantly’s courageous spirit as he has fought this horrible virus with the help of the highly competent and caring staff at Emory University Hospital. His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all.”
Dr. Jason Brewington of Arlington, a clinical faculty member at JPS and a member of the Southside Church of Christ, which Brantly attended in Fort Worth, said he looked much better than when media images recorded him entering Emory hospital weeks ago, clad head-to-toe in a white protective suit.
“We were excited, glad and joyful to see him and his wife together,” Brewington said. “We are thankful to the Lord, thankful that God was faithful in answering our prayers.”
Brewington said it is typical of Brantly to ask people to pray for others fighting Ebola in Liberia and West Africa.
“He’s a selfless person,” Brewington said.
Several members of the Southside Church of Christ, which Brantly attended while he lived in Fort Worth, watched the news conference. Among them was Kent Smith, who said, “Happy is an understatement.”
Smith said Brantly appeared well.
“He looked exactly the same as the day he left in October,” Smith said. “I think he looked amazing.”
JPS Health Network also issued a statement: “This is a day of great joy at JPS Health Network. Dr. Kent Brantly’s recovery represents what we work to achieve every day — providing care that allows patients to reunite with their loved ones. We extend our sincere thanks to the care team at Emory University Hospital for helping our former JPS Family Medicine resident reach this amazing milestone.”