Kent Brantly, the Fort Worth-trained doctor who contracted Ebola in Africa, tells NPR that having the virus made him realize the “emotional and psychological toll” of the disease.
"When I became ill, I started to experience what my patients had suffered under my care," Brantly told NPR's Melissa Block, host of All Things Considered. "And Ebola is a really humiliating disease. You're isolated from your family, your community, everyone around you ... When you go a week without seeing a human face, that does something to you ... I didn't have the touch of another human being's skin till the time I was released from Emory University Hospital."
The interview airs this evening on All Things Considered on KERA 90.1 FM. Or you can listen to the conversation here:
Brantly was working with Ebola patients in Africa for Samaritan’s Purse, the aid relief group based in North Carolina.
Brantly also testified on Capitol Hill this week, saying the U.S. can’t afford to wait even weeks to send help to address the epidemic in West Africa. He also met with President Barack Obama, who announced a stepped-up response to the Ebola crisis.
Brantly contracted Ebola in Liberia in July. He was flown to Emory in Atlanta for treatment. Brantly told NPR he didn’t believe he became infected in his hospital’s Ebola treatment unit. Instead he thinks he contracted the virus while in the emergency room or another part of the hospital.
Last month, Brantly spoke publicly for the first time about contracting Ebola. “I am thrilled to be alive,” he said. Earlier this month, Brantly spoke with NBC about his experience. “I felt like I was about to die,” Brantly told NBC.
As a survivor, Brantly sees it as his "duty to speak out on behalf of those still suffering" from Ebola. Other survivors "want to give back to the community," he said, but "it's a very challenging task because of the fear and stigma attached to the disease."
During his Senate testimony on Tuesday, Brantly shared the story of a Liberian Ebola patient in his care who died in July. He told NPR that the patient's family "just thought we were mistaken" in making the Ebola diagnosis. They believed instead that their relative's cause of death was a curse, he said, and "the solution was to get revenge on the person who placed the curse."