The remarkable recovery of the American Ebola survivors


An ambulance transporting Nancy Writebol to Emory University Hospital leaves Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga., on Aug. 5. (Todd Kirkland/Associated Press)

They caught the virus while working with Ebola’s ill in Liberia. There, the two Americans were given an experimental treatment in a desperate effort to stave off death.

Then, earlier this month, Texas doctor Kent Brantly and North Carolina missionary Nancy Writebol were transported back to the United States, three days apart, in an “air ambulance” equipped with a portable isolation unit. On the ground in Georgia, Brantly, then Writebol, were taken by ambulance to Emory University Hospital, their arrivals broadcast live on television.

Now, the Ebola-infected Americans have gone home: Writebol was discharged from the Atlanta hospital on Tuesday, and Brantly was released on Thursday. They are no longer contagious. They have survived the deadly disease, which kills 60 percent to 90 percent of patients who contract it.

“Today is a miraculous day,” Brantly said at a news conference Thursday. “I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family.”

This is how it looked like when he arrived at the Atlanta hospital on Aug. 2:


Kent Brantly (right) arriving at Emory University Hospital on Aug. 2. (WSB-TV Atlanta via Associated Press)

This is how it looked when he was discharged on Thursday:

Kent Brantly, one of two American Ebola patients who have recovered from the virus, said he is “forever thankful to God for sparing my life.” (Reuters)

Brantly hugs Bruce Ribner, medical director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

This is how it looked like when Writebol arrived at Emory on Aug. 5:


Medical workers roll Writebol into Emory University Hospital. (John Spink/Atlanta Journal Constitution via Reuters)

And this is how she looked on Wednesday, the day after her discharge:


Nancy Writebol (SIM handout via Reuters)

Writebol and her husband, David, on Wednesday. (SIM handout)

In a statement Thursday, David Writebol said that his wife is hoping for privacy as she tries to regain her strength.

“Nancy is free of the virus, but the lingering effects of the battle have left her in a significantly weakened condition,” he said. “Thus, we decided it would be best to leave the hospital privately to be able to give her the rest and recuperation she needs at this time.

“During the course of her fight, Nancy recalled the dark hours of fear and loneliness, but also a sense of the deep abiding peace and presence of God, giving her comfort. She was greatly encouraged knowing that there were so many people around the world lifting prayers to God for her return to health. Her departure from the hospital, free of the disease, is powerful testimony to God’s sustaining grace in time of need.”

At the news conference, Brantly declared: “God saved my life.”

Emory doctors said Brantly and Writebol are now immune to the Zaire strain of the virus that’s present in the worst Ebola outbreak in history — one that is ravaging Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and has also spread into Nigeria. There have been 1,350 confirmed, probable and suspected Ebola deaths in the current outbreak, according to the World Health Organization.

J. Freedom du Lac is the editor of The Post's general assignment news desk. He was previously a Local enterprise reporter and, before that, the paper’s pop music critic.
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