Dr. Kent Brantly: Liberia Has a Very Special Place in Our Hearts

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The deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD), which ravished the nation and brought it to its knees in 2014, has left in its wake stories that will be told for generations. It has even gone down in Liberian and world history as the worst form of the EVD ever to hit mankind. The World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 10,600 persons contracted the virus in Liberia. Of that number, nearly 5000, precisely 4,807 died from the virus. More than half of that number was cremated, which is totally against the traditional manner in which Liberians handle their dead.
However, there are hundreds of others, who, by the grace of God, survived the scourge. One of the survivors, who has credited his survival from the disease to God’s miraculous intervention “in the affairs of man,” is Dr. (MD) Kent Brantly.
Dr. Brantly was the first American to contract the EVD, while trying to selflessly save his patients, who had come to the Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) Hospital’s emergency room. Brantly had, by then, been working with ELWA for at least eight months. He had to be flown back to his home country for advanced medical treatment. After spending three weeks at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, he walked out of the hospital an EVD survivor.
Our Health Correspondent met him Thursday, June 25, on the compound of ELWA hospital. He had come back to extend thanks and appreciation to his Liberian and US colleagues who looked after him when he fell sick before he was flown out of Liberia. The first part of this interview was published on Tuesday, June 30. Below is the second and final part:
Daily Observer (DO): Have you been able to meet other American survivors like Nurse Nancy Writebol and others? What do you talk about when you meet?
Kent Brantly (KB): I have met several of the American survivors, including Nancy. Nancy and I were close friends before we both got sick and we were in the hospital at the same time in America. So, we share something very close together and that will be a bond that we share for the rest of our lives. I am so glad that Nancy and her husband David are back in Liberia and working with SIM (Sudan Interior Mission) and working at ELWA to serve Liberia. I’m very proud of her. I have met Dr. Rick Sacra; he was my mentor here at ELWA hospital and I am so thankful to God that he’s well. He’s been back to Liberia a couple of times and working here at the hospital. I thank God for him. I have met several other American survivors and things we talk about…you know there have been two American survivors, who got Ebola in America. The rest of them were people who got the disease by working in West Africa. And that’s the thing that we all talk about. We recognize that it was so much harder for people here. Most of America can understand and America is paying so much attention to us and we are saying, ‘Don’t pay much attention to us. Pay attention to West Africa. That’s where we need to be focusing.’ So that is the thing that we talk about the most.
DO: So, Doc, when you heard that Eric Duncan, the Liberian guy who took Ebola to America had passed away, how did you feel personally?
KB: I was really heart broken when I heard that news. It just made me so sad. I still have not met his fiancée Louise Troh, but I hope to meet her someday. I felt so bad for his whole family. It was a very sad day.
DO: When you go around the world or travel to places in the States, what messages do you give?
KB: I have a few messages. One is that we are all neighbors-whether we live in America or West Africa, we are all neighbors. We live in a global community. We are all neighbors and God has called us to love our neighbors. Jesus said the two most important things in this life are to love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. And that love for our neighbor ought to motivate us to have concern and to take action to help our neighbors in need. And in terms of Ebola, that means helping our West African neighbors trying to bring an end to this outbreak. That is one of the things I talk about the most.
DO: Doc, let me take you back. How did you contract the Ebola disease?
KB: I would never know. I really, I don’t know for sure. Initially the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), tried to do an investigation and tried to figure out and they came up with one idea but I was never quite convinced that was the right story…
DO: What is the story?
KB: I mean they just tried to figure out who I had contact with and who Nancy had contact with and there was one of our other co-worker, who also got Ebola and he died around the same time. I think I probably got it from a patient in the emergency room. Someone who came in with Ebola, but they thought at first that it was malaria or something else. I had to take care of the patients in the emergency room along with the staff here and in the emergency room. I think it was probably in one of those situations where I had made contact with the patient. Because of our work in the Ebola treatment Unit, we had all the proper equipment. We were following the right protocols. We were doing things appropriately. So I just had to guess that it was in the emergency room.
DO: Do you still intend to practice as a Medical Doctor?
KB: I do. You know once you are a doctor practicing medicine in the United States, they don’t want you to stay out of practice for too long, alright. So, I have started working a few shifts back at a hospital in America so that I can return to the practice of Clinical Medicine and someday, I will get back to it full time. But right now, I am doing it on the side as I continue to try to be a responsible steward of these opportunities to speak and remind people of the importance of loving our neighbors and helping West Africa beat Ebola.
DO: After you survived the virus, did you have any post Ebola problems like some of the Ebola survivors here who are suffering from some medical conditions?
KB: There is this problem called post-Ebola syndrome. It is a very real thing. It’s a problem that Ebola survivors have. Not everyone has it. Not everyone has the same problems. Some people have joint pains, muscle pains, eye problems, nerve pains… I am very thankful that I have made a full recovery and I don’t seem to have any of those problems. But we need to be helping the survivors who have those problems and there is a clinic here at ELWA to treat survivors. It should be publicized so that people know and can come here if they are Ebola survivors. They can come here to get care.
DO: Lastly, if you are ever presented with the opportunity to come back to Liberia, are you going to come back?
KB: Only God knows. We are praying for His guidance as we try to decide what to do next. Liberia has a very special place in our hearts. We are praying for guidance from God about what to do next.
DO: Thank you so much, Sir.
KB: Thank you.

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