Doctor, hit by disease, steers focus to others

07/28/2014 5:24 PM

07/28/2014 5:25 PM

It is humbling what Dr. Kent Brantly has done.

In October, fresh off of completing his residency in family medicine at Fort Worth’s John Peter Smith Hospital, Brantly and his wife Amber, a nurse, packed their two young children and boarded a plane for Monrovia, Liberia, beginning a two-year mission commitment to provide medical care to the people of that west African nation.

Social media postings from Brantly and his relatives show clearly that the move was not only a long-held dream but a matter of deep spiritual devotion for the young couple.

Friends say that’s just the kind of people they are.

It is frightening what happened next. In February, an outbreak of deadly Ebola virus began in west Africa. That outbreak has grown to envelop Liberia and neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization reports that it has become the worst Ebola outbreak in history, with 1,201 reported cases and 672 deaths as of July 23. With the death toll continuing to rise, Liberia, a nation of 4.2 million people, closed most of its points of entry and exit on Monday.

Ebola, characterized by extensive external and often internal bleeding, is fatal for up to 90 percent of its victims, WHO reports. There is no vaccine, no known cure, not even a known treatment that is always effective.

Brantly, 33, used his skills to supervise treatment for Ebola victims at a hospital outside of Monrovia run by Samaritan’s Purse, an aid organization based in North Carolina.

It is terrifying where Brantly finds himself now. Last week, after his wife and children left for a scheduled return visit to the United States, the young doctor noticed in himself the symptoms of the horrible disease with which he had become so familiar.

He’s now in isolation in the same hospital where he treated patients, in stable but very serious condition. Still, a spokeswoman for Samaritan’s Purse said he was talking and working on his computer.

Treatment most often includes supportive care and rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes, according to the WHO website.

Despite the frightening prognosis, some people do survive Ebola — more than 40 percent of them so far in this outbreak.

Finally, what might be most impressive and telling about Brantly is a statement from his friend, Dr. Jason Brewington of Arlington, a clinical faculty member at JPS and fellow member of Southside Church of Christ.

“He knows about the prayers for him, but he still wants people to pray for the other doctors and nurses there, and the other patients with Ebola,” Brewington said.

Those selfless thoughts could only come from a very brave man, a man of great faith, an inspiring doctor.

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