Ebola patient walks into Atlanta hospital; wife visits him through glass

ATLANTA — A specially equipped medical plane whisked Ebola-stricken Dr. Kent Brantly from Liberia to Georgia on Saturday, setting up the latest leg of a race to save the man who’s now the first known Ebola patient on U.S. soil.

An ambulance rushed Brantly — one of two Americans seriously sickened by the deadly viral hemorrhagic fever last month while on the front lines of a major outbreak in West Africa — from Dobbins Air Reserve Base to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital shortly after the plane landed late Saturday morning.

Video from Emory showed someone wearing a white, full-body protective suit helping a similarly clad person emerge from the ambulance and walk into the hospital.

Dr. Kent Brantly

Dr. Kent Brantly

Emory has said it will treat Brantly, 33, and, eventually, the other American, fellow missionary Nancy Writebol, in an isolation unit.

There, physicians say they have a better chance to steer them to health while ensuring the virus doesn’t spread — the last point nodding to public fears, notably expressed on social media, that the disease could get a U.S. foothold.

The plane, also equipped with a unit meant to isolate the patient, was able to take only one patient at a time. Organizers expect the plane will now pick up Writebol in Liberia, and bring her to Georgia early next week, said Todd Shearer, spokesman for Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse, with which both Americans were affiliated.

Brantly’s wife, parents and sister cried when they saw him on CNN, walking from the ambulance into the hospital, a family representative said on condition of anonymity. His wife, Amber, later said she was relieved that her husband was back in the United States.

“I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the U.S.,” she said in statement sent to CNN. “I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital.”

Brantly’s wife visited with him from behind a glass wall for about 45 minutes, the family representative said. Kent Brantly was described as being “in great spirits and so grateful.”

Brantly, who has ties to Texas and Indiana, and Writebol, of North Carolina, became sick while caring for Ebola patients in Liberia, one of three West African nations hit by an outbreak that health officials believe has sickened more than 1,300 people and killed more than 700 this year.

Treatment in isolation

This will be the first human Ebola test for a U.S. medical facility. But Brantly and Writebol will be treated at an isolated unit where precautions have been in place to keep such deadly diseases from spreading, unit supervisor Dr. Bruce Ribner said.

Everything that comes in and out of the unit will be controlled, Ribner told reporters Thursday, and it will have windows and an intercom for staff to interact with patients without being in the room.

Ebola is not airborne or waterborne, and spreads through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine and other secretions of infected people.

There is no FDA-approved treatment for Ebola, and Emory will use what Ribner calls “supportive care.” That means carefully tracking a patient’s symptoms, vital signs and organ function and taking measures, such as blood transfusions and dialysis, to keep him or her as stable as possible.

“We just have to keep the patient alive long enough in order for the body to control this infection,” Ribner said.

Writebol was given an experimental serum this week, Samaritan’s Purse said, though its purpose and effects, if any, weren’t immediately publicized.

The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding.

Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat, but progress to vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function and sometimes internal and external bleeding.

Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, a Christian mission organization with which Writebol also is linked, said Saturday that Brantly and Writebol were seriously ill but stable.

“My last report (on Brantly) was yesterday. … He was ambulatory, being able to talk, converse, and get up. So that was encouraging,” Johnson said Saturday morning.

On Writebol, Johnson said: “She’s responsive, and we’re encouraged at how she’s doing.”

Emory’s isolation unit was created with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based down the road. It aims to optimize care for those with highly infectious diseases and is one of four U.S. institutions capable of providing such treatment.

The World Health Organization reports that the outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is believed to have infected 1,323 people and killed more than 729 this year, as of July 27.

‘Compassionate’ Brantly had focus in mission fields

Brantly went to Liberia with his wife and two children last year to serve a two-year fellowship with Samaritan’s Purse.

Brantly was there initially to practice general medicine, but he focused on Ebola when the outbreak began, charity spokeswoman Melissa Strickland said.

He attended high school in Indianapolis before graduating from Abilene Christian University in 2003 and Indiana University’s medical school in 2009.

While at Abilene Christian, he spent a summer interning overseas with an ACU program focused on vocational missions experiences, ACU’s online alumni magazine reported.

“Everyone here who has been connected with Kent knows him to be someone who is very compassionate, considerate and always upbeat in all he does,” the program’s director, Dr. Gary Green, told the magazine. “.. Kent’s the kind of guy who would weigh benefits versus risk, then try to take himself out of the equation so that he would be thinking, ‘What do I bring to the table? Is the risk worth taking because I can benefit so many people?’ “

Before heading to Liberia, Brantly did his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

“We’re kind of proud that there was a hero out there trying to do his best to make life better for other folks under the circumstances,” a physician who knows him, Dr. Paul Pepe of Dallas’ UT Southwestern Medical Center, told CNN affiliate WFAA this week.

Though Brantly’s wife and children had been in Liberia with him, they were in the United States when he became ill, and they are not symptomatic themselves, the CDC has said.

Fear, conspiracy theories

As officials worked to bring Brantly and Writebol home, the idea of intentionally bringing Ebola into the United States has rattled many nerves.

“The road to hell was paved with good intentions,” wrote one person, using the hashtag #EbolaOutbreak. “What do we say to our kids When they get sick& die?”

On the website of conspiracy talker Alex Jones, who has long purported the CDC could unleash a pandemic and the government would react by instituting authoritarian rule, the news was a feast of fodder.

“Feds would exercise draconian emergency powers if Ebola hits U.S.,” a headline read on infowars.com.

Ribner repeatedly downplayed the risk for anyone who will be in contact with Brantly or Writebol.

“We have two individuals who are critically ill, and we feel that we owe them the right to receive the best medical care,” Ribner said.

The fight against Ebola

All concerns about the United States pale in comparison to the harsh reality in the hardest-hit areas.

Even in the best-case scenario, it could take three to six months to stem the epidemic in West Africa, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.

There’s no vaccine, though one is in the works.

There’s no standardized treatment for the disease, either; the most common approach is to support organ functions and keep up bodily fluids such as blood and water long enough for the body to fight off the infection.

The National Institutes of Health plans to begin testing an experimental Ebola vaccine in people as early as September. Tests on primates have been successful.

So far, the outbreak is confined to West Africa. Although infections are dropping in Guinea, they are on the rise in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In the 1990s, an Ebola strain tied to monkeys — Ebola-Reston — was found in the United States, but no humans got sick from it, according to the CDC.

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27 comments

  • Patricia G.

    I admit, yes it is scary, the thought of bringing Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Whitebol, to the U.S., BUT, what if they were your family member? I just hope NO ONE, will be or try to do something stupid and try to cause a problem for the Doctor’s and the Hospital. People would complain if they were brought here without telling people first, and then they were to find out. They would be accusing them of trying to hide what was being done, and wanting to know why, they were not notified in advance. So Please AMERICA, keep calm, let the Doctor’s do their jobs to protect Dr, Brantly and Mrs. Whitebol, and all of us here in The US. I have Faith in what they are doing. Remember the saying, AM I NOT MY BROTHER’S KEEPER? Yes, We are!
    Pray for them that they will be cured and find a cure to end this terrible disease, for ever !

    • Grandma talking !

      What’s hateful about being concerned – frankly, I’m more concerned about someone coming into the US without symptoms and infecting hundreds later on. There is nothing wrong with a quarantine if people are coming from the Ebola areas and there is nothing hateful about wanting to protect your family & yourself from this virus which HAS NO CURE.

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  • Cheryl Eads

    Why don’t we stay in the U.S. and try to keep this out of America, would be nice we don’t need to go over and bring this back we have people doing that for us.

    • Brian Jose

      So many comments here catalog the moral decline of America. Like it or not, agree with it or not, but America is known around the world for exporting gun-toting military to KILL people, and flying drones to KILL people. So now we have people saying that it is silly to be sending doctors and nurses to HEAL people. Or, at best, if these people want to go risk their lives, we’ll abandon them if they suffer. Imagine saying that about a solider: Leave him wounded in Afghanistan to die. He chose to go. He knew the risks. So much for Reagan’s “city on a hill”.

  • Seth Blackwell

    How is this virus spread and how can you prevent contracting the virus in the event that it does start spreading here in the US? I hope it does not but im close to where they will be and would like to be prepared for my family if such an epidemic does insue here on the east coast.

  • Barry

    We have never had a case of this very deadly virus here!! they will one day wish they had never brought them here!!!!

  • really ?

    Man oh man can not wait for this virus to get loose in Atlanta ! No you people say ? Let me remind you that all med schools have problems !Remember the CDC and the Anthrax problem ? We where never told the truth about that ! Also the Reston Ebola is a common cold compared to some of the Ebola strains that kill at 90% levels !!

  • huh ?

    Five million 500 thousand in the Atlanta area !! So make sure you people have plenty of fluids and antibiotics on hand !! Wait that’s right there is no cure !! Well good night and good luck !!

  • true

    The head of the CDC anthrax lab, Michael Farrell, resigned Tuesday after his employees were exposed to live anthrax last month !!

  • Legal dept ?

    I can see the shark lawyers circling the CDC, US customs, Emory Hospital, and all the senators/congressmen/president, Samaritan purse, the aircraft company who flew them into the us or anyone else who allowed this crazy idea of bring a Ebola patient to the US for no treatment (since there is no treatment or cure) as we speak waiting for the first patient here in the US to contract this virus from this Doctor and Nurse. I can also see that the pay day from the juror pool will be the biggest payout ever for medical malpractice case. .

  • Seth Blackwell

    I see this as a possible doomsday scenario like ending very badly for the east coast and that this may spread rapidly if it is released (accidently I hope)

  • SAM

    Our Heavenly Father, Please forgive them, for they DO NOT know what they do! Hmmmm, nothing stop’s this disease, nothing, so let’s bring it to America & Spread this Disease….. I don’t believe the CDC, our Government, or anyone else, especially when there is going to be EBOLA IN THE USA? Dear Lord, we can only ask you to protect us, Amen

  • Diane Purcell

    Being 60% of those with Ebola die, alittle compassion would be nice for these people. This reminds me of the early days of AIDS. YES it’s scary, but we’re in a different position medically now. Hopefully he will be able to survive this. That’s the most important thing right now.

  • mf29

    These people knew what t were getting into when they went there. It’s very irresponsible to bring them back here contagious with a virus that was never here. It’s putting millions of people’s lives in danger for two people’s mistake. They knew the risks whenthey they went. The cdc can say whatever they want about precautions and safety look at their history all the mistakes you would think an organization with their money and resources wouldn’t make.

  • Seth Blackwell

    I do feel horribly for the ones with this virus and for their families…I hope both do survive but I honestly do believe that they went there to help people and contracted this disease and they get brought back to where it will cause an epidemic here in the US….I know that medicine has come amazingly far but not far enough…there is no vaccine to prevent contracting it and no cure….its a 50/50 chance you will die from it….I think if there is experimental drugs for it maybe we should go to Africa and start testing it on people that have the disease….I was reading earlier they have been trying for 2 years now on monkeys but even if it does not work that is a chance I would be willing to take if I already had th

  • Susie Q

    Get ready folks…..it’s going to be a looong ride! Putting the US at risk purposely for someone who made the decision to go to another country KNOWING the risk of catching this deadly disease is mind blowing! If it were me or my family, I would be devastated, but would have more compassion for my fellow man than to ever consider exposing others to a horrific virus that has NO CURE or PREVENTION! If I wanted to be possibly exposed, I would have joined the mission and traveled there willingly. But I guess they have already made that decision for us. Praying for us all!

    • Becky

      Dr. Brantley went over there as a volunteer general practitioner to help people who don’t have access to healthcare. When the disease broke out, he was asked to direct the clinic and he selflessly agreed. There is a hypocratic oath that doctors take to not deny service to anyone. People like this should be encouraged and supported not ostracized. Where is our compassion?

  • Susie Q

    Even my 11 year old asked “I wonder how long it will be before they start making us try their new shot or nasal spray?”

  • walterrean

    My prayers are with these people for the good that they’ve done – even in having helped just one life. And I would hope to find mercy ever I need it. God Bless.

  • NobodyAtAll

    Transmission through blood, body fluids and other body excrements..That makes it no worse than Aids..So what’s with all the hooplah? BlahBlahBlah..And I’ll bet that this winter several people will catch a cold too..OH MY!!

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