UPDATED AT 10:35 AM
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Dr. Kent Brantly made history when Emory University Hospital checked him in for an unprecedented Ebola treatment. He and another American both contracted the Ebola virus while doing medical aid work in Africa. Now, just a few weeks after returning to the United States, the Fort Worth doctor is heading home.
Brantly made a statement upon being released from the Atlanta hospital on Thursday morning. Last week, the 33-year-old doctor released a written statement, saying that he was feeling stronger every day. The second patient, 59-year-old Nancy Writebol, was released on Tuesday of this week. Her family has requested privacy at this time.
"Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family," were Brantly's first words as he addressed the news media. He described waking up one day while doing missionary work in Liberia and feeling under the weather. That day, he said, life took a dramatic turn. He recalls over the next 9 days, while lying in a bed in Liberia, he contemplated death while millions were praying for him.
"God saved my life...a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers," said Brantly. Brantly thanked God for sparing his life, his missionary aid group Samaritan's Purse, Emory Hospital and the medical staff that cared for him, and his family. Brantly said he is looking forward to going away with his family for awhile to spend some time reconnecting before sharing more of their story with the world.
Brantly also spoke of his colleague Nancy Writebol and her first words as she walked out of her isolation room for the first time, "All she could say was, 'To God be the glory.'"
After his statement, Brantly and his wife gave every member of the medical staff a heartfelt hug and then walked out of the hospital serenaded by cheers and loud applause.
Brantly and Writebol were in Liberia working with Samaritan's Purse. The group's president said in a statement that Brantly had recovered. "Over the past few weeks, I have marveled at Dr. Brantly's courageous spirit as he has fought this horrible virus with the help of the highly competent and caring staff at Emory University Hospital," stated Franklin Graham. "His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all."
Meanwhile, there is relief at the Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, where Brantly worshipped before leaving the country. The congregation has been praying for weeks to see the doctor recover. It appears as though their prayers have been answered.
Brantly and Writebol were doing missionary work near Liberia's capital last month when they became infected with the virus. They were flown out of Africa earlier this month and taken to an isolated wing of the Atlanta hospital for specialized treatment. The Ebola virus outbreak has resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 people across west Africa, according to the World Heath Organization. At least 576 of those fatalities were in Liberia.
Dr. Brantly's full statement can be read below:
"Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family. As a medical missionary, I never imagined myself in this position. When my family and I moved to Liberia last October to begin a two-year term working with Samaritan's Purse, Ebola was not on the radar. We moved to Liberia because God called us to serve the people of Liberia.
"In March, when we got word that Ebola was in Guinea and had spread to Liberia, we began preparing for the worst. We didn't receive our first Ebola patient until June, but when she arrived, we were ready. During the course of June and July, the number of Ebola patients increased steadily, and our amazing crew at ELWA Hospital took care of each patient with great care and compassion. We also took every precaution to protect ourselves from this dreaded disease by following MSF and WHO guidelines for safety.
"After taking Amber and our children to the airport to return to the States on Sunday morning, July 20, I poured myself into my work even more than before - transferring patients to our new, bigger isolation unit; training and orienting new staff; and working with our Human Resources officer to fill our staffing needs. Three days later, on Wednesday, July 23, I woke up feeling under the weather, and then my life took an unexpected turn as I was diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease. As I lay in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness, and I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified.
"I did not know then, but I have learned since, that there were thousands, maybe even millions of people around the world praying for me throughout that week, and even still today. And I have heard story after story of how this situation has impacted the lives of individuals around the globe - both among my friends and family, and also among complete strangers. I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your support. But what I can tell you is that I serve a faithful God who answers prayers.
"Through the care of the Samaritan's Purse and SIM missionary team in Liberia, the use of an experimental drug, and the expertise and resources of the health care team at Emory University Hospital, God saved my life - a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.
"I am incredibly thankful to all of those who were involved in my care, from the first day of my illness all the way up to today - the day of my release from Emory. If I tried to thank everyone, I would undoubtedly forget many. But I would be remiss if I did not say thank you to a few. I want to thank Samaritan's Purse, who has taken care of me and my family as though we were their own family. Thank you to the Samaritan's Purse and SIM Liberia community. You cared for me and ministered to me during the most difficult experience of my life, and you did so with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
"Thank you to Emory University Hospital and especially to the medical staff in the isolation unit. You treated me with such expertise, yet with such tenderness and compassion. For the last three weeks you have been my friends and my family. And so many of you ministered to me not only physically, but also spiritually, which has been an important part of my recovery. I will never forget you and all that you have done for me.
"And thank you to my family, my friends, my church family and to all who lifted me up in prayer, asking for my healing and recovery. Please do not stop praying for the people of Liberia and West Africa, and for a quick end to this Ebola epidemic.
"My dear friend, Nancy Writebol, upon her release from the hospital, wanted me to share her gratitude for all the prayers on her behalf. As she walked out of her isolation room, all she could say was, 'To God be the glory.' Nancy and David are now spending some much needed time together.
"Thank you for your support through this whole ordeal. My family and I will now be going away for a period of time to reconnect, decompress and continue to recover physically and emotionally. After I have recovered a little more and regained some of my strength, we will look forward to sharing more of our story; but for now, we need some time together after more than a month apart. We appreciate having the opportunity to spend some time in private before talking to some of you who have expressed an interest in hearing more of our journey. Thank you for granting us that.
"Again, before we slip out, I want to express my deep and sincere gratitude to Samaritan's Purse, SIM, Emory and all of the people involved in my treatment and care. Above all, I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life and am glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic. Please continue to pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa, and encourage those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end. Thank you."
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