The mother of the Fort Worth doctor being treated for the Ebola virus said Tuesday she hadn’t received any update on his condition despite reports he has deteriorated, but she asked for continued prayers.
“We don’t get hour-by-hour updates,” said Jan Brantly in a telephone interview. “Samaritan’s Purse is giving out his condition on a daily basis. We have not heard from them today.” Samaritan’s Purse is the charity Kent Brantly was working for when he fell ill.
Brantly, 33, who completed his medical residency at JPS Health Network in June 2013, tested positive for the Ebola virus last Wednesday. He is being kept in an Ebola isolation unit in ELWA hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. There is no known cure.
“Kent is in the first week of the illness,” said David McRay, director of Maternal-Child at JPS Health Network. “He is not in critical condition at this time but he is seriously ill and the prognosis is grave.”
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McRay is very close to Brantly and his family and has spoken with him four times in the last week, including about 30 minutes before Monday’s news conference at the JPS Health Network’s Newkirk Building.
“The disease usually declares itself within two weeks,” McRay said. “It’s usually in the second week of the illness that people are either recovering or not — and most not. My thought is, we’ll know something next week.”
Despite the life-threatening illness, Brantly hasn’t second-guessed his decision to work with Ebola patients and still believes it was the right decision to travel to Liberia.
“He doesn’t want people to lose sight that he’s one of three people at this hospital who got infected and one of them has already died,” McRay said. “… In Kent’s eyes, he’s no more special than all of the Africans who are passing away. He just doesn’t want to be in the middle of all this.”
Last October, Brantly began a two-year fellowship with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian aid group, to serve as a general practitioner, delivering babies and performing surgeries at a mission hospital in the Monrovia suburb of Paynseville.
When Ebola spread from neighboring Guinea into Liberia, Brantly and his wife, Amber, re-evaluated their commitment, but decided to stay in West Africa with their children, ages 3 and 5.
Brantly directed the hospital’s Ebola clinic, wearing full-body protective gear in the Equatorial heat for upward of three hours at a time to treat patients.
He also had undertaken humanitarian work while studying medicine at Indiana University, working in impoverished, inner-city neighborhoods, according to a medical school spokeswoman.
During his four-year family medicine residency, he accompanied Mcray on medical missions to Uganda and earthquake-devastated Haiti. He also spent several weeks working in Tanzania, where a cousin lives and works as a medical missionary, Mcray said.
Before contracting Ebola, Brantly and his family “really enjoyed Liberia.”
“They were very well-adjusted,” said Ken Kauffeldt, the country director for Samaritan’s Purse in Monrovia.
Liberia’s health ministry is investigating how Brantly contracted the virus.
“We’re trying to figure out what went wrong because he was always very careful,” said Tolbert Nyenswah, an assistant health minister in Monrovia.
Brantly does not know how he got infected and believes he didn’t violate any guidelines.
“Kent is confident he followed all of the appropriate protocols,” McRay said.
Amber Brantly and the children departed for a wedding in the U.S. just days before Brantly fell ill and quarantined himself.
They are currently staying with family in Abilene and, while not subject to quarantine, are monitoring their temperatures for an early sign of viral infection, a City of Abilene spokeswoman said.
Their return has sparked questions about whether they might introduce the infection to the U.S.
However, Stephan Monroe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that “Ebola poses little risk to the general U.S. population.”
Another worker, Nancy Writebol, who was part of the joint Serving In Mission/Samaritan’s Purse team, also is infected with Ebola.
In a statement on its website, Samaritan’s Purse said it is providing care to both Brantly and Writebol.
“We are doing everything possible to help Dr. Brantly and Nancy,” Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham said. “We ask everyone to please pray urgently for them and their families.”
There have been attempts to transfer Brantly to a European hospital, but McRay said it is his understanding they have been unable to get clearance to fly over other countries.
In an email message that McRay read aloud, Brantly said he did not see his illness as unique and asked for prayers for him and others infected with Ebola.
“I’m praying fervently that God will help me survive this disease,” Brantly said. “Please continue to pray along with me and my friend Nancy who is also very sick and for the doctors who are taking care of us. Peace. Kent.”
Another JPS doctor, Jason Brewington, said he had known Brantly for five years and that they were both members of the same congregation at Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth. He described Brantly as a person of “deep faith” who is buoyed by the prayers of his congregation back home.
“As a congregation, we’re somber, we’re sad that he has this illness but we know through our prayers and faith the Lord’s will will be done and Kent will be able to glorify God throughout this illness,” Brewington said.
Star-Telegram writers Bill Hanna and Diane Smith contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.