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Fort Worth Doctor Fighting Ebola Now Fighting For His Life

Samaritan's Purse
Earlier this year, Dr. Kent Brantly, left, treated a patient with the Ebola virus at the agency's Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Liberia.

A doctor trained in Fort Worth is now fighting for his life in a Liberian hospital -- a victim of the Ebola outbreak he was trying to battle. 


Dr. Kent Brantly knew working in Liberia would be challenging -- and that was even before the Ebola epidemic.

“He intentionally cares for other people before he cares about himself," says Kent Smith, one of Brantly’s colleagues at the charity Samaritan’s Purse. They both attended the same Fort Worth Church.

Smith and worshipers gathered at the Southside Church of Christ on Sunday to pray for Brantly. His condition has deteriorated since he first noticed symptoms last Wednesday.

“[Brantly] is not critically ill at this point, he is still conversing and is in isolation but he is seriously ill with a very grave prognosis,” says Dr. David McRay, a close friend of Brantley’s since he started his residency in 2009 at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

The two spoke Monday, and McRay says Brantly was tired and quiet, but remains in good spirits.

Branty sent this email to McRay: "I'm praying fervently that God will help me survive this disease. Please continue to pray along with me and pray for my friend Nancy who is also very sick, and for the doctors who are taking care of us. Thank you all so much. Peace, Kent."

Family on a mission

Not long after completing his residency in Fort Worth in 2009, Brantly, his wife and two kids headed to Africa. McRay says helping patients in developing countries was Brantly’s calling. And a few months back when the epidemic broke out, they decided to stay. Brantly was asked to become director of the isolation unit in a hospital in Liberia’s capital Monrovia.

“[Brantly] is absolutely confident he didn’t breach protocol at any time," McRay says. "He was meticulous.”

Two other members of the medical team in Liberia also contracted Ebola. One died; the other, Nancy Writebol, is still sick.

Treatment difficult

Dr. Cedric Spak, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor Medical Center in North Texas, says getting somebody who’s sick with Ebola to a modern hospital with all of its supportive measures would be potentially life-saving.

He’s done medical work in rural Nigeria and says many hospitals in developing countries lack infection-control measures that are standard in the United States.

There’s no treatment for Ebola  and nearly 700 people have died in this outbreak. Spak says intensive care units in the U.S. are equipped to treat complications that come with Ebola, a type of hemorrhagic fever.

Brantly’s family returned to the U.S. last week for a wedding. He was supposed to join them. Now it’s not clear when or if he’ll leave.

A Samiritan's Purse spokeswoman, Melissa Stickland, says the organization has been unable to evacuate Brantly and Writebol.

A love of mission work

The Associated Press spoke with Brantly's mother:

Jan Brantly says her son wanted to be a medical missionary from an early age. She says the Indianapolis Heritage Christian High School graduate began going on mission trips while young and has also worked in Uganda and Tanzania.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.