Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic

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9781601428233: Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic

Kent, bud. We got your test result.  And I’m really sorry to tell you that it is positive for Ebola.”

Dr. Kent and Amber Brantly moved with their children to war-torn Liberia in the fall of 2013 to provide medical care for people in great need—to help replace hopelessness with hope. When, less than a year later, Kent contracted the deadly Ebola virus, hope became what he and Amber needed too.
 
When Kent received the diagnosis, he was already alone and in quarantine in the Brantly home in Liberia. Amber and the children had left just days earlier on a trip to the United States. Kent’s personal battle against the horrific Ebola began, and as thousands of people worldwide prayed for his life, a miraculous series of events unfolded.
 
Called for Life tells the riveting inside story of Kent and Amber’s call to serve their neighbors, as well as Kent’s fight for life with Ebola and Amber’s’ struggle to support him from half-a-world away. Most significantly, Called for Life reminds us of the risk, the honor, and the joy to be known when God and others are served without reservation.

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About the Author:

Dr. Kent Brantly, accompanied by his wife Amber and family, served as medical missionaries in Monrovia, Liberia, with World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse. Both Kent (BA in Biblical Text) and Amber (BS in Nursing) are graduates of Abilene Christian University.  Dr. Brantly received his Medical Degree from Indiana University School of Medicine. He also completed his Family Medicine Residency and Fellowship in Maternal Child Health at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. After contracting the Ebola virus in summer 2014, Dr. Brantly was evacuated to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where he recovered and was later reunited with his family. Now serving as the Medical Missions Advisor for Samaritan’s Purse, Dr. Brantly, Amber, and their two children are based in Texas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Update for the Paperback Edition
 
Liberia was declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization on Janu­ary 14, 2016—for the third time. We are thankful this outbreak has come to an end, but much work remains to be done.
 
There are more than seventeen thousand Ebola survivors in West Africa. ELWA hospital is currently one of four centers in Monrovia providing health care for Ebola survivors, helping to manage the lingering effects of the disease and helping the survivors to rebuild their lives in the midst of continuing stigma and rejection by many parts of society. In addition to the huge number of survivors, there are also thousands of individuals widowed or orphaned by Ebola. The gov­ernments of West Africa are struggling to find ways to care for these innocent victims.
 
Samaritan’s Purse continues construction on a new hospital at ELWA, pro­jected to open by the end of summer 2016. (To learn more about this project, visit SamaritansPurse.org.) Work also continues in the development of methods for the prevention and treatment of Ebola Virus Disease.
 
In the time since the initial release of this book, many opportunities have been granted us to share our story before national and international leaders, aid workers, health-care professionals, college students, and faith groups. This has taken us around the globe, but perhaps the most meaningful journey of all was the trip our family took back to Liberia.
 
In June 2015, the four of us made the long journey over the ocean to visit old friends and see familiar places in Liberia. The time was too short, but the experi­ence brought healing and closure to an intense chapter in our family’s story.
 
We listened to our friends and coworkers tell how they have been affected by the Ebola outbreak. It was heart wrenching to see the pain in their faces as they recounted the stories of family members who had suffered and died in the Ebola treatment unit. We were struck by how grateful they all seemed to be, despite the circumstances and their deep grief; they all thanked God for getting them through.
 
We may never again live in our little house on the beach at ELWA, but we have been forever changed by our experiences and relationships there.
 
Kent has since reentered full-time medical practice in Fort Worth, Texas. He is working in the hospital system where he trained, taking care of patients and teaching family-medicine residents in advanced obstetrical care.
 
Amber volunteers in our children’s school and for World Relief Fort Worth as it helps to resettle refugees in new homes. She is also involved with women’s min­istries at our home church.
 
Some of the proceeds from the sale of this book have been given to the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons in memory of Dr. Sarah Lantz. Dr. Lantz was Kent’s medical-school classmate and a fellow Samaritan’s Purse Post-Resident physician who worked in Zambia from January 2014 to August 2015, when she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. She fought a courageous battle before she died on January 13, 2016. To learn how you can contribute to this endowed scholarship program for training African surgeons, please visit PAACS.net.
 
We continue to seek opportunities to love our neighbors where we are and are currently engaged in preparations for working overseas again. Though this Ebola outbreak is now part of history, the lessons learned through that crisis are still with us. There will be other disease outbreaks and other international disasters, such as the earthquakes in Nepal, the war in Syria, and the refugee crisis in the Middle East. And in all these situations, we must remember the lessons we learned through these events: we must choose compassion over fear.
 
Prologue
So What’s Next?

Kent, bud. We got your test result. And I’m really sorry to tell you that it is positive for Ebola.”
 
I had not expected to hear those words despite the mounting evidence over the past three days—the worsening symptoms, the repeated negative malaria tests—that would have led me to suspect Ebola had I been the doctor rather than the patient.
 
Our first Ebola patient had come to our hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, barely six weeks earlier. But we had worked under the strain of a looming Ebola outbreak for nearly three anxious months before then. For the thirty-eight years since Ebola Virus Disease had been identified, every outbreak had been limited to small rural communities.
 
This time, however, was different. This time, Ebola had found the perfect storm of factors, quickly spreading through three countries and into major urban centers.
 
Our hospital of forty-five to fifty beds hurriedly converted the chapel into a small isolation unit, hoping it would never be needed. When our first Ebola pa­tient arrived, we maintained the only treatment unit in all of southern Liberia.
 
In the beginning stages of what erupted into the worst Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen, I had learned to consider Ebola anytime a patient entered our emergency room with a fever and symptoms that, just a few months earlier, would have been suspected as likely malaria or typhoid fever. In fact, for the safety of our medical workers, we treated all febrile patients as though they had Ebola until proven otherwise. It was too risky not to.
 
The Ebola strain we observed carried a mortality rate of 70 percent. The death rate was even higher in our hospital, where only one of the dozens of patients who had tested positive for Ebola had survived.
 
One.
 
Ebola didn’t just kill our patients; it stripped them of their dignity. Ebola hu­miliated its victims by taking away control of their bodily functions. We con­stantly changed diapers and sheets and cleaned up patients, and we fed them when they could no longer do so themselves.
 
Unable to cure their disease, we focused on treating their sense of isolation that came from being in a treatment unit where only two groups of people were allowed inside. One group was the medical personnel always working with their own safety in the front of their minds in light of the disproportionate number of health-care workers contracting the disease. The second group was other Ebola patients, moaning and groaning in pain until their bodies could fight no longer.
 
For all but that one patient, a positive Ebola test had become a death sentence served out among suffering patients and cautious medical personnel—some un­known foreigners, even—outfitted so securely that only our eyes were visible through the protective goggles.
 
No families. No friends. No familiar faces. No human contact.
 
With no cure, no hope.
 
As the outbreak had worsened and our hospital worked to expand our capac­ity, I was named director of the treatment unit. I became the physician who en­sured that our staff was properly trained, repeatedly reassuring them that when we followed the protocols and worked together as a team, we were completely safe. The staff had trusted me too, because for each of my patients, I had determined to display compassion over fear.
 
And now Dr. Lance Plyler, the team leader responsible for managing our medical response to Ebola, was standing outside my bedroom window, because he could not come into my contaminated home, notifying me that I, too, had contracted the virus. Dr. John Fankhauser, my colleague and mentor in Liberia for nine busy months, stood beside my bed dressed in full personal protective equip­ment (PPE), just as I had stood beside the beds of too many patients in our Ebola unit, because he wanted to be with me when Lance delivered the news.
 
“I really wish you hadn’t said that,” I told Lance.
 
I was so sick at that point that I don’t remember saying those words; that is Lance’s recollection of my reaction. But I do remember what I said immediately after.
 
“Okay, so what is next? What’s our plan? What are we going to do?”
 
I am a doctor, trained to respond to a bad test result by creating a plan. More importantly, I am a husband and a father, and my thoughts turned to my beautiful wife and children back home in the United States. I might not see them, much less touch them, ever again.
 
I stared out our bedroom window, looking to Lance.
 
“How am I going to tell Amber?”

Crisis

Chapter 1
Defenseless

Kent
This is it. Everything is about to change.
Our first Ebola patient looked up at me weakly as I knelt next to her bed of blankets on the patio near the hospital pharmacy. The disease we had prepared for while praying we would never see it had, indeed, arrived at our hospital, and I realized I was about to set the tone for the rest of our time treating Ebola patients—however long that might prove to be.
 
Dressed in full protective gear, I offered the young woman my right hand protected by two surgical gloves. She grabbed hold.
 
“Felicia, my name is Dr. Brantly,” I said. “This is David. He’s one of our nurses.”
 
David greeted her.
 
“We are going to take good care of you here,” I assured Felicia.
 
It was Wednesday night, June 11, 2014. Our hospital had the only Ebola treat­ment unit in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia, and the phone call had come earlier in the evening from the country’s Ministry of Health. Two suspected Ebola pa­tients were being transferred to us from a hospital in the northern suburb of New Kru Town.
 
Three members of a family had died in the past week, and Ebola was the suspected cause. Two other family members had become sick and were at that hospital. As we began preparing our Ebola treatment unit, which had been sitting empty for months, we did not know when to expect the two.
 
We were not even sure they would actually come to us.
 
Nancy Writebol came in to help. Nancy, personnel director for Serving In Mission (SIM) missionaries in Liberia, had volunteered to serve as the unit’s hygienist when we ramped up our Ebola response. Nancy changed the sheets on the beds and mixed a sufficient quantity of the bleach-water solution for decontamination.
 
Dr. Debbie Eisenhut (known as Dr. Debbie) volunteered to stay at the hospital and said she would call me at home if anything developed. A little later, Debbie did call, telling me an ambulance had arrived at the hospital with two patients, a man in his midforties and his niece. I returned to the hospital.
 
As our two patients waited outside in the ambulance, we had to recruit two staff members willing to be the first to risk their lives to work in the unit with our first Ebola patients. I did not expect anyone to want to sign up.
 
I pleaded with some of the nurses: “Look, this is somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter. Somebody’s uncle, somebody’s brother, somebody’s cousin. We’ve got to take care of them. Think if this was your family member.”
 
Our medical director at ELWA, Dr. Jerry Brown, joined in recruiting nurses by phone.
 
Two volunteered for the job: Louise, an ER nurse, and David, a nurse’s aide.
 
Preparing the unit, assembling the staff, and getting the four of us dressed in PPE required a couple of hours. Debbie made several trips outside to the ambu­lance during that span. Each time Debbie went outside, she told everyone to re­main near the ambulance and not to get out to walk around or enter the hospital until we came to get them.
 
There were no ambulance services in Monrovia. The only ambulances were owned by hospitals and the government for transporting patients from one hospital to another. An ambulance was typically a modified Land Cruiser with sideways-facing seats in the back. The crew sat in the front seat with no divider between them and the patient or patients in the back.
 
The ambulance outside our hospital contained three crew members, the two patients, and two family members—a man in his thirties and a boy who appeared to be twelve.
 
As we were preparing the unit, the uncle, who had been alert and talking, became very still and silent. The two family members helped Felicia climb down out of the ambulance and lie on the asphalt road behind it.
 
One of Felicia’s relatives then grew angry at having to wait and stormed the entrance to the emergency room, kicking a hole in the door. He accused us of delaying care for Felicia and not being willing to admit her.
 
We tried to convince the family that we were not ignoring them, that we were preparing the best we could to take care of Felicia the right way and safely. He calmed down and returned to the ambulance.
 
Then it began raining. I do not know if Felicia walked or if she was carried, but they moved her to a covered porch in front of the hospital pharmacy and spread blankets there for her to lie on.
 
After we had the inside of the unit fully prepared, David and I suited up in PPE and approached Felicia on the porch. As I dropped to one knee beside her, the burden of the moment descended squarely on my shoulders, because I had known all along that once the first case arrived, working and living in Monrovia would never be the same.
 
“We have a stretcher,” I told Felicia, “and we are going to put you on the stretcher and carry you to a place we have prepared for you.”
 
I looked up at David. “Do you want her head or feet?”
 
“Feet,” he replied.
 
I picked Felicia up by the shoulders, and we slid her onto the stretcher and placed the blankets on top of her. We carried her around the back of the hospital and into the isolation unit.
 
Dr. Debbie and Louise were waiting for her inside. I picked up a spray can of the chlorine solution and walked back around the hospital to the ambulance. Felicia’s uncle remained curled up inside the ambulance, lying over the top of a backpack. I leaned into the truck and felt for a pulse, then looked him over. He was obviously deceased.
“I have to have that backpack,” the man with him said. “It has my identification card in it.”
I pulled the backpack out from under the uncle. The body fell onto the floor of the ambulance, his position unchanged. He still looked as though he were lying over the backpack. Rigor mortis had already set in.
I stood there, backpack in hand, facing a decision.
I could not give a backpack contaminated with Ebola to the man. But on the other hand, he h...

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Kent Brantly
Verlag: Authentic Media Jul 2015 (2015)
ISBN 10: 1601428235 ISBN 13: 9781601428233
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Buchbeschreibung Authentic Media Jul 2015, 2015. Buch. Buchzustand: Neu. Neuware - Englisch. Artikel-Nr. 9781601428233

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