An American doctor who passed the one potentially life-saving Ebola serum dose on to a fellow medical staffer is now in grave condition as the deadly plague has exploded across West Africa.
Health experts say the recent Ebola outbreak is the worst in the history of the virus, as more than 700 individuals have succumbed to the disease that is impacting the nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. “Unfortunately, these countries don't have the infrastructure to handle the response, and, moreover, they don't have any experience with these kind of outbreaks in the past,” said Dr. Steve Monroe, a representative with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, U.S. health officials have warned Americans not to travel to the area, even as the Christian humanitarian outreach group Samaritan's Purse has begun to pull its personnel out of the most heavily infected areas.
Among those who are fighting for their lives from the Ebola infection are two Samaritan's Purse American medical personnel, nurse Nancy Writebol and Kent Brantly, M.D., whom the organization said remained in stable but “grave” condition as they were being moved to the United States to be treated.
Writebol is receiving an experimental serum that Dr. Brantly insisted she get instead of himself, according to a report by CBN News. “Yesterday, an experimental serum arrived in the country, but there was only enough for one person,” explained Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham. “Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol.”
But Graham noted that another individual stepped forward to battle on behalf of Dr. Brantly — an African boy who is most likely alive today because of the efforts of the American doctor. “Dr. Brantly received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care,” Graham said. “The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor that saved his life.”
Dr. Brantly, a family practice physician, was serving in Liberia through a post-residency program sponsored by Samaritan's Purse before he joined a medical team responding to the Ebola crisis. “His wife and two children had been living with him in Liberia but flew home to the U.S. before he started showing any signs of illness,” the humanitarian group said in a press update.
“This is a guy who thinks people should give more than lip service when they say they're going to follow Jesus,” a friend, Kent Smith, said of Dr. Brantly.
A stateside colleague of Dr. Brantly, Robert Earley of JPS Health Network, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that “there’s an incredible level of braveness in Kent. You don’t meet people like this every day.”
Nancy Writebol and her husband work with a Samaritan's Purse partner missions organization called SIM, which manages a hospital that has cared for many of the Ebola victims. She had been working as a hygienist who decontaminated those entering and leaving the isolation ward of the hospital when she was infected.
“We continue to pray for Nancy’s full and complete recovery,” said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM-USA. “Even though her condition has worsened, we know she is receiving the best possible medical care, and we are thankful that she has access to this experimental drug.”
He added that “we believe in the power of prayer and ask people around the world not only to pray for Nancy and Kent, but also for everyone affected by this terrible virus.”
Speaking of the two, Graham said, “their heroic and sacrificial service — along with the entire team there — is a shining example of Christ’s love in this crisis situation.”
Samaritan's Purse noted that since 1976, the Ebola virus, which causes massive internal bleeding and has a mortality rate of 60 to 90 percent, has “infected 2,232 people in remote village areas and killed 1,503. Since early this year, the mortality rate has already claimed nearly a third of those fatalities as it has infiltrated three capital cities with populations in the millions.”
Photo of sign warning about Ebola in Liberia: AP Images