It was late July, and Kent Brantly, an American doctor working to treat Ebola patients in Liberia, had become a patient himself. He was weak and struggling to survive in a barely adequate isolation ward on the outskirts of Monrovia, the Liberian capital.
He didn’t think he could hold on much longer, and if his doctors agreed, they didn’t say so.
“I felt like I was about to die,” Brantly told NBC’s Matt Lauer in Brantly’s first interview since being released from a hospital in Atlanta, Ga., last month. “And I said to the nurse who was taking care of me, ‘I’m sick. I have no reserve. And I don’t know how long I can keep this up.'”
“I thought, I’m not gonna be able to continue breathing this way. And they had no way to breathe for me if I had to quit breathing,” he continued.
Brantly said he was aware that his symptoms were severe: bloody diarrhea, vomiting blood, rashes and bloody eyes.
“We had only had one survivor at that point; he never had any of those symptoms,” Brantly said.
Days after that near-death experience, Brantly was given a dose of an experimental Ebola treatment and a unit of blood from a young boy whom he had earlier cured of Ebola. He was also flown to the United States in an “air ambulance” to a special facility at Emory University in Georgia.
And by the time Brantly arrived at Emory, he walked into the hospital.
Today, Brantly is cured, thanks to the life-sustaining medical care he received at Emory, which has basic testing and treatments that are simply not available to the vast majority of Ebola patients in West Africa.
But another American doctor, a friend of Brantly’s, has contracted the virus. He is just one more of at least 130 health-care workers who have contracted the disease as a result of treating patients.
“The nature of Ebola is that health-care workers are predominantly affected, because of the way that it is spread,” Brantly said on the “Today” show Wednesday. It is “a very real difficulty” of this epidemic, he added.