Who is Kent Brantly, The Ebola-Stricken Doctor Being Treated At Emory?
So, you've probably heard that there's a massive health crisis going on in West Africa — a widespread outbreak of the catastrophic virus Ebola, which according to the World Health Organization has already killed 887 of 1,603 people infected. And two of those victims so far have been Americans — Dr. Kent Brantly and volunteer Nancy Writebol. Brantly arrived at Emory University hospital in Atlanta on Saturday, and has been undergoing treatment at their isolated infectious disease center.
It's caused a considerable stir, for understandable reasons, even though it's a little premature — Ebola is a hugely frightening virus, and until now had never made its way to the United States. While risk to the public is low, according to the CDC — Ebola can only be transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids — it's still understandable to think "Hey, can we just keep an ocean between us and the killer virus?" Still, as CDC Director Tom Freiden told The Denver Post, it's important not to let those remote fears outweigh the wellbeing of patients who need intensive, life-saving treatment.
I hope that our understandable fear of the unfamiliar does not trump our compassion when ill Americans return to the U.S. for care.
This seems as good a time as any to ask: Who is Dr. Kent Brantly, and how did he become infected with one of the most feared diseases in the world?
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Brantly's friend Kent Smith described the 33-year-old Brantly as an "extraordinary guy" — basically, just as you'd expect, given his decision to risk his own health to fight the worsening outbreak.
He is very gentle, and soft-spoken ... he is intelligent, he always had thoughtful and insightful comments to make during our discussions at church. But really, if I had to pick one word to describe him, above anything else, it would be selfless. He really does care about other people more than he cares about himself.
Smith's remarks also highlight what seems to be a big part of Brantly's life: his Christian faith. The pair are members of the same church — the Southside Church of Christ, which has been holding prayers for Brantly since word of his infection broke. Speaking to CBS News, Smith made clear that he believes the church's prayers for Brantly are playing a role in aiding his treatment.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Brantly is a person of faith, considering the organization with which he traveled to Africa. Both he and Writebol were volunteering with Christian organizations, his being Samartian's Purse, a group run by evangelist Franklin Graham. Setting aside Graham's controversial political opinions and remarks, his organization is doing their best amid awful circumstances in Africa, and it's people like Brantly who make on-the-ground health aid available.
Brantly has a wife named Amber and two small children. According to The Denver Post, they had been with Brantly in Africa, but departed days before he got sick to attend a wedding in the United States.
His recovery is a hard thing to predict, because the treatment he's receiving is basically untested. He's now received two doses of an experimental serum called ZMapp. According to NBC News, the second dose seems to have reduced his fever and improved symptoms. Whether it'll ultimately save him isn't yet known — throughout the course of this outbreak, about 55 percent of people infected have died.
Image: Anderson Cooper 360/CNN