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Health Team

Doctor with Ebola shares treatment with NC missionary

Posted July 31, 2014 12:21 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2014 12:36 p.m. EDT

Kent Brantly, the American doctor and Samaritan's Purse fellow fighting Ebola in Liberia, is living the group's mission even as he fights the deadly disease, according to Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham.

Brantly, whose condition is described as grave, asked caregivers to give the sole dose of an Ebola treatment to his colleague who is also battling the disease.

“Yesterday, an experimental serum arrived in the country, but there was only enough for one person," Graham said. "Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol."

Writebol, of Charlotte, who works for Serving in Mission, was working in a disinfection area for doctors and nurses when she came down with Ebola.

Brantly was treated with a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola, Graham said. "The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor who saved his life,” he said.

In an email to a Texas colleague, Brantly wrote Monday, "I'm praying fervently that God will help me survive this disease."

He also asked that prayers be extended for Writebol. 

There is no known cure for Ebola, which begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat and escalates to vomiting, diarrhea and internal bleeding. The disease spreads through direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids as well as indirect contact with "environments contaminated with such fluids," according to the World Health Organization.

Still, colleagues and family members said Brantly, 33, knew of the risks associated with working in one of the world's poorest countries during an epidemic and did not regret his choice.

"Kent prepared himself to be a lifetime medical missionary," said his mother, Jan Brantly. "His heart is in Africa."

Last October, Brantly began his two-year fellowship with Samaritan's Purse, a Christian aid group, to serve as a general practitioner, delivering babies and performing surgeries. 

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.

"They were very well-adjusted," said Ken Kauffeldt, the country director for Samaritan's Purse in Monrovia.

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.

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.

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, Texas, and, while not subject to quarantine, are monitoring their temperatures for an early sign of viral infection, a City of Abilene spokeswoman said.