Doctor who survived Ebola says he held onto faith

09/03/2014 2:12 PM

09/03/2014 2:13 PM

Dr. Kent Brantly isn’t concerned about any stigma that may be attached to having the Ebola virus, he told NBC’s Matt Lauer during interviews aired Tuesday and Wednesday.

Neither is his Fort Worth friend, Kent Smith, who watched portions of the interview.

“If I had the opportunity, I would have gone to Atlanta and hugged his neck as soon as he came out of the isolation ward,” Smith said.

Smith attended the same church in Fort Worth as Brantly, who did his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital.

“He looks a little thinner than he was, but he looks good,” Smith said. “He was thoughtful and softspoken, as I knew him to be.”

Brantly’s battle against Ebola, which he contracted in Liberia while serving a charity, made international headlines. He was flown in a specially outfitted aircraft to an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital near Atlanta as his condition began to decline. After he recovered from the often-fatal disease, Brantly was released from the hospital Aug. 21 and has been in seclusion with his family in North Carolina.

“I felt like I was about to die,” Brantly said during an in-depth interview that was aired in pieces Tuesday and Wednesday.

He described how on July 23, he woke up under the weather.

“I woke up that morning and I felt a little off,” Brantly said.

Brantly’s wife, Amber, and children weren’t in Liberia when he contracted the disease — for which he was thankful. The entire family had moved with him to West Africa, but his wife and children were on a trip to the United States when he fell ill.

“That would have been an overwhelming mental burden if I had woken up sick lying next to my wife with one of my children snuggled up next to me,” Brantly said.

Amber Brantly said she was all too familiar with Ebola when she got the phone call telling her he had tested positive for the disease.

“I know how it ends,” she told NBC. “I was scared.”

The 2014 Ebola outbreak 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 1,552 dead.

Brantly’s interview comes as world health officials warn that the epidemic is “accelerating,” according to news reports, and another American doctor has tested positive for the disease. SIM USA, a mission organization, reported that a doctor treating obstetrics patients in Monrovia has the virus.

Brantly said he is a friend of the doctor and is praying for him.

Asked by Lauer if he is worried about the stigma associated with Ebola, Brantly responded: “I’m not worried about that. It might happen.”

So far, Brantly said, people who have recognized him grab his hand and tell him they prayed for him.

The doctor said he held to his faith even as he faced the possibility of dying and told God, “I want to be faithful to you. I won’t deny you.”

Smith said he was touched by Al Roker’s comments on the Today show that Brantly’s faith can be heard in everything he says.

The Brantly interview segments aired on NBC Nightly News and Today. A full report will air on an NBC prime-time special at 9 p.m. Friday.

Tomorrow on Today, Lauer’s interview with Nancy Writebol, another Ebola survivor, is scheduled to air.

This report includes material from The Washington Post.

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