It’s been an emotional roller coaster for friends, family and colleagues of Dr. Kent Brantly. The lows came when the Fort Worth-trained doctor contracted Ebola in Liberia and had to be flown to a special isolation ward in Atlanta.
Thursday, though? A new high. Brantly has recovered from Ebola, and was discharged from Emory University Hospital. Many of his Texas friends cried seeing him on TV for the first time since he took ill.
When Brantly came out of a side door, gripping the hand of his wife Amber, wide-eyed toward the crowd at, the audience couldn’t contain itself, applauding and cheering.
As officials set the ground rules for the press conference, over in Fort Worth, colleagues of his at John Peter Smith Hospital were filled with tears, glued to television sets, anxious to hear him speak. J.R. Labbe is the hospital spokeswoman.
“This is such a great day at JPS,” Labbe said. “We are all filled with joy at the news that Dr. Brantly has been discharged…”
Those who had worked with Brantly during his residency there, and even those who didn’t couldn’t help but be moved by his story.
“Today is a miraculous day,” he told reporters. “I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.”
Brantly was in West Africa, working for a Christian charity called Samaritan’s Purse. He left Fort Worth in October for Liberia, and on July 23rd, he started to feel sick.
“As I lay in my bed in Liberia, for the following nine days,” Brantly said. “Getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help me be faithful in my life, even in my illness. And I prayed that in my life or in my death, that he would be glorified.”
Dr. Bruce Ribner of Emory University Hospital says that for Brantly and Nancy Writebol, his co-worker who was also released, the risk is over.
“We have determined, in conjuction with the Centers for Disease Control, and state health departments, that Dr. Brantly has recovered from the Ebola virus infection, and that he can return to his life, without public health concerns.”
It’s a relief to Brantly’s friends at the Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth. Many watched the live news conference too, and couldn’t help but tear up, including church elder Kent Smith.
“Yeah, I was really kinda surprised by the wave of emotion that overcame me,” Smith said. “I’m not typically a teary person, but I was certainly choking back tears of joy. I think what really got me, obviously seeing Kent and how good he looked, but just, also seeing Amber and seeing the beaming smile that was on her face. That one kinda got to me.”
Like JPS, the church is collecting funds to help the Brantly family because all their belongings were considered contaminated and had to be burned.
Smith says it’s important to reiterate what his friend said during the news conference, that many others are still suffering in West Africa.
“Just because he has recovered doesn’t mean the battle is over, and we need to remember those folks,” Smith said.
Brantly said he was going to take time to recover and decompress, spend time with his family, but friends say they wouldn’t be surprised if the man they describe as self-less went back to another part of the world to continue helping those in need.