Six Degress of Separation from West Africa’s Ebola Epidemic

My daughter Sarah told me today that many of her medical school friends in Fort Worth worked with Dr. Kent Brantly, the doctor who has been infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia and who has just arrived at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Sarah did not work with him personally because she chose to do her 3rd year in Corpus Christi with 30 of her classmates, but the rest of her class worked closely with him at John Peter Smith Hospital in Forth Worth where he was a resident in maternal health and family medicine. Her closest friends have said he is a very good man and a fine doctor. Dr. Brantly and his wife moved to Liberia with their two small children in 2013 so that they could do missionary work. His wife and kids had just returned to the U.S. to attend a wedding when Dr. Brantly became infected with the Ebola virus. Luckily, his family is showing no symptoms of the disease.

Ironically, our daughter’s Liz’s former boyfriend, Jordan, is a surgery resident at Emory University Hospital and is currently on his vascular rotation. While I don’t believe he will have any contact with Dr. Brantly because of the extreme precautions they are exercising, Jordan will certainly be right there learning what is happening and will, no doubt, become extremely familiar with the treatment for Ebola.

All of this coincides with Ray’s and my recent visit with Dr. Benedict Kolee, the Liberian physician who was providing the latest information on Ebola at a gathering at the home of our friend (and Dr. Benedict’s mentor) Dr. Katherine Challoner, who routinely leads medical mission trips to West Africa.

The good news regarding Dr. Brantly is that he is now safely at Emory and is receiving the best medical treatment in the world for this virulent virus. It’s even better news to hear that according to the head of the CDC, Dr. Brantly “appears to be improving,” which is heartening since he insisted that his fellow missionary, Nancy Writebol, receive the one dose that was available to help combat the disease. Needless to say, this was a heroic act. I certainly plan to pray for Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol as they fight for their lives.

I also will be praying for Dr. Kolee and his medical colleagues who are on the front lines in Liberia fighting this deadly disease. Dr. Kolee returned to Liberia this past week to go back to work. This is all very frightening since the Liberia government recently declared a national emergency because of the Ebola outbreak and Liberia’s most basic medical resources, such as gloves and protective clothing, is in short supply.

I hope you will offer up your prayers or good thoughts or positive energy or whatever it is that you’re inclined to do for these medical doctors and nurses who are putting their lives on the line. They are all heroes at this point and they need our support during this time of real crisis in West Africa.

As evidenced by Sarah and Liz’s unlikely connection to Dr. Brantly (and even Ray’s and mine via Dr. Kolee), it is clear that we are all just a few steps away from being connected to one another around the world. We have to pull together to help our fellow world citizens, especially the West Africans, since this virus is devastating to them and could be to us in short order.

Open our hearts and minds, Oh Lord, and guide us in this time of trouble. Help us to understand how we can personally make a difference in this time of need. Amen.

Dr. Brantly

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