It was a whirlwind week in Washington, D.C., for Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly (’03) and his wife Amber (Carroll ’06).
The ACU alumnus testified before congressional committees Tuesday and Wednesday about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The couple also met privately with President Obama in the Oval Office.
Brantly contracted the deadly virus while serving as a missionary doctor in Liberia for aid organization Samaritan’s Purse.
“As a survivor, it is not only my privilege but also my duty to speak out on behalf of the people of West Africa who continue to face unspeakable devastation because of this horrific disease,” he said Tuesday, speaking at a joint Senate hearing on the Ebola crisis.
On Wednesday, he testified again, this time before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee. Throughout the week, he also met with major media outlets in the nation’s Capitol, including the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.
Brantly’s core message was the same: The people of West Africa are suffering greatly from a horrific disease that is raging out of control, and it will require swift and coordinated action by the global health community to keep the disease from spreading further, perhaps even to the United States.
“I hope that the devastating impact of the current epidemic will result in new discoveries for treatments and vaccines in the future, but we cannot wait for a magic bullet to talk the spread of Ebola in West Africa,” Brantly told congressmen. “The current epidemic is beyond anything that we have ever seen, and it is time to think outside of the box.”
Brantly’s battle with the virus left him with a perspective few other physicians share. “Ebola is a scourge that does not even allow its victims to die with dignity,” he testified.
“I came to understand firsthand what my own patients had suffered,” he said. “I was isolated from my family, and I was unsure if I would ever see them again. Even though I knew most of my caretakers, I could see nothing but their eyes through their protective goggles when they came to treat me.”
As the Brantlys look to the future, the people of Africa remain on their hearts and minds. Brantly told the LA Times that he would like to return to Liberia, “Lord willing,” and encouraged other healthcare professionals considering traveling to West Africa to help with the Ebola outbreak to go now. “For people who want to go, I say, ‘Don’t delay.’ ”