ATLANTA -- Both Ebola patients being treated at Emory Hospital have been released. Both Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were cleared of the virus.
Nancy Writebol was released Tuesday. Dr. Kent Brantly was released today.
"God saved my life," said Brantly, looking gaunt, at a press conference Thursday, at which the room applauded his appearance. He thanked his medical team and the millions of people around the world praying for his recovery. "Please do not stop praying for the people of West Africa."
Bruce Ribner, medical director of the hospital's Infectious Disease Unit, said Brantly will go to an undisclosed location with his wife and children after the conference.
Brantly and Writebol were flown to the Emory from West Africa. They have been treated in the hospital's specialized unit and have received supportive care aimed at keeping them hydrated and stable. Writebol was a volunteer with another aid group, SIM USA.
Here's what Dr. Brantly said as he was released Thursday:
"Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family. As a medical missionary, I never imagined myself in this position. When my family and I moved to Liberia last October to begin a two-year term working with Samaritan's Purse, Ebola was not on the radar. We moved to Liberia because God called us to serve the people of Liberia.
"In March, when we got word that Ebola was in Guinea and had spread to Liberia, we began preparing for the worst. We didn't receive our first Ebola patient until June, but when she arrived, we were ready. During the course of June and July, the number of Ebola patients increased steadily, and our amazing crew at ELWA Hospital took care of each patient with great care and compassion. We also took every precaution to protect ourselves from this dreaded disease by following MSF and WHO guidelines for safety.
"After taking Amber and our children to the airport to return to the States on Sunday morning, July 20, I poured myself into my work even more than before - transferring patients to our new, bigger isolation unit; training and orienting new staff; and working with our Human Resources officer to fill our staffing needs. Three days later, on Wednesday, July 23, I woke up feeling under the weather, and then my life took an unexpected turn as I was diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease. As I lay in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness, and I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified.
"I did not know then, but I have learned since, that there were thousands, maybe even millions of people around the world praying for me throughout that week, and even still today. And I have heard story after story of how this situation has impacted the lives of individuals around the globe - both among my friends and family, and also among complete strangers. I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your support. But what I can tell you is that I serve a faithful God who answers prayers.
"Through the care of the Samaritan's Purse and SIM missionary team in Liberia, the use of an experimental drug, and the expertise and resources of the health care team at Emory University Hospital, God saved my life - a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.
"I am incredibly thankful to all of those who were involved in my care, from the first day of my illness all the way up to today - the day of my release from Emory. If I tried to thank everyone, I would undoubtedly forget many. But I would be remiss if I did not say thank you to a few. I want to thank Samaritan's Purse, who has taken care of me and my family as though we were their own family. Thank you to the Samaritan's Purse and SIM Liberia community. You cared for me and ministered to me during the most difficult experience of my life, and you did so with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
"Thank you to Emory University Hospital and especially to the medical staff in the isolation unit. You treated me with such expertise, yet with such tenderness and compassion. For the last three weeks you have been my friends and my family. And so many of you ministered to me not only physically, but also spiritually, which has been an important part of my recovery. I will never forget you and all that you have done for me.
"And thank you to my family, my friends, my church family and to all who lifted me up in prayer, asking for my healing and recovery. Please do not stop praying for the people of Liberia and West Africa, and for a quick end to this Ebola epidemic.
"My dear friend, Nancy Writebol, upon her release from the hospital, wanted me to share her gratitude for all the prayers on her behalf. As she walked out of her isolation room, all she could say was, 'To God be the glory.' Nancy and David are now spending some much needed time together.
"Thank you for your support through this whole ordeal. My family and I will now be going away for a period of time to reconnect, decompress and continue to recover physically and emotionally. After I have recovered a little more and regained some of my strength, we will look forward to sharing more of our story; but for now, we need some time together after more than a month apart. We appreciate having the opportunity to spend some time in private before talking to some of you who have expressed an interest in hearing more of our journey. Thank you for granting us that.
"Again, before we slip out, I want to express my deep and sincere gratitude to Samaritan's Purse, SIM, Emory and all of the people involved in my treatment and care. Above all, I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life and am glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic. Please continue to pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa, and encourage those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end. Thank you."
Both also received doses of an experimental drug, called Zmapp, which includes man-made antibodies against Ebola. Although Zmapp has shown promise in animals, it has not yet been tested in humans. Experts have said it's not possible to conclude that Zmapp cured their disease, although getting good supportive care at Emory, one of the world's best hospitals, likely improved their chances of survival.
Emory issued this statement Thursday:
"After a rigorous and successful course of treatment and testing, the Emory Healthcare team has determined that both patients have recovered from the Ebola virus and can return to their families and community without concern for spreading this infection to others," says Bruce Ribner, MD, director of Emory's Infectious Disease Unit.
Criteria for the patients' discharges were based on blood and urine diagnostic tests and standard infectious disease protocols. The Emory medical team has maintained its extensive safety procedures throughout this treatment process and is confident that the discharge of these patients poses no public health threat.
"The Emory Healthcare team is extremely pleased with Dr. Brantly's and Mrs. Writebol's recovery, and was inspired by their spirit and strength, as well as by the steadfast support of their families," says Ribner.
The CDC issued this statement Thursday morning:
CDC is heartened to learn that the two U.S. citizens treated at Emory University Hospital for Ebola have been discharged from the hospital and can rejoin their families and communities.
CDC has advised Emory University Hospital that there is no public health concern with the release of these patients. They no longer have Ebola virus in their blood and therefore pose no risk to household contacts or the public. There are no restrictions to the patients' activities of daily living.
CDC provided consultation to the healthcare team at Emory University Hospital and conducted the laboratory testing of patients to confirm that they no longer had Ebola virus circulating in their blood. Individuals who recover from Ebola are not contagious as far as transmitting the virus through close personal contact with blood or body fluids such as urine, feces, sweat, or vomit.
At times people in Africa who have recovered from Ebola have found their communities reluctant to have them return out of fear that community members could catch Ebola from a person who has survived the illness. Based on available evidence, Ebola survivors have not transmitted the virus to others after it is no longer present in their blood.
SIM, The missionary group with which Nancy Writebol worked issued the following statement Thursday morning:
Nancy Writebol, the SIM missionary stricken with Ebola Virus Disease and undergoing treatment in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, has tested clear of the virus and was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 19. She and her husband, David, have gone to an undisclosed location to rest and spend time with one another.
Writebol is one of two patients treated for Ebola virus infection at Emory. The second patient, Kent Brantly, MD, is being discharged today.
"After a rigorous course of treatment and testing, the Emory Healthcare team has determined that both patients have recovered from the Ebola virus and can return to their families and community without concern for spreading this infection to others," Bruce Ribner, MD, director of Emory's Infectious Disease Unit, said at a press conference today.
Criteria for the patients' discharges were based on blood and urine diagnostic tests and standard infectious disease protocols. Emory said its medical team maintained its extensive safety procedures throughout the treatment process and is confident the discharge of the patients poses no public health threat.
"The Emory Healthcare team is extremely pleased with Dr. Brantly's and Mrs. Writebol's recovery, and was inspired by their spirit and strength, as well as by the steadfast support of their families," said Ribner.
The following statement was made by Nancy Writebol's husband, David, today:
"Nancy joined the ranks of a small, but hopefully growing number of survivors of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) when she walked out of the Emory University Hospital Isolation Unit on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 19. She had been in isolation fighting the disease since July 26. Nancy is free of the virus, but the lingering effects of the battle have left her in a significantly weakened condition. 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.
"We wish to give our word of thanks to Dr. Ribner and the staff at Emory University Hospital for their kind dedication to Nancy's care during her stay. We also give our thanks to the SIM doctors and the Samaritan's Purse team in Liberia for their loving and tireless care for Nancy. We thank God for these and so many others whom God used to bring Nancy back from the brink of death. It is hoped that the things the doctors and researchers have learned as a result of Nancy's illness will be applied to the saving of many lives."
"Nancy and David are taking a long, well-deserved break of peace and quiet to reflect on all that has transpired over the past four to five weeks, all that God has done, and seeking how God will lead them in future paths of service, " said Bruce Johnson, president, SIM USA. "The courageous, humble, faith-filled spirit of the Writebols is a testament to the same calling and commitment of the thousands of their co-workers in SIM from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America."
Writebol was serving with her husband at SIM's ELWA mission campus in Monrovia, Liberia, when she and Brantly contracted Ebola. Brantly was serving at the ELWA Hospital as part of a cooperative work between SIM and Samaritan's Purse. After treatment in Liberia, both were flown to Atlanta and admitted to Emory University Hospital, where they underwent additional treatment.
According to CNN, two blood tests done over a two-day period had to come back negative for Ebola before Brantly could be discharged. When he first showed signs of the disease, he was apparently so ill that he called his wife to say goodbye. An experimental drug helped make Brantly strong enough to walk from the ambulance into the hospital when he first arrived at Emory.
Samaritan's Purse, the Christian humanitarian organization for which Brantly works, released this statement from its president, Franklin Graham, Thursday morning:
Today I join all of our Samaritan's Purse team around the world in giving thanks to God as we celebrate Dr. Kent Brantly's recovery from Ebola and release from the hospital. Over the past few weeks, I have marveled at Dr. Brantly's courageous spirit as he has fought this horrible virus with the help of the highly competent and caring staff at Emory University Hospital. His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all.
I know that Dr. Brantly and his wonderful family would ask that you please remember and pray for those in Africa battling, treating and suffering from Ebola. Those who have given up the comforts of home to serve the suffering and the less fortunate are in many ways just beginning this battle.
We have more than 350 staff in Liberia, and others will soon be joining them, so please pray for those who have served with Dr. Brantly -- along with the other doctors, aid workers and organizations that are at this very moment desperately trying to stop Ebola from taking any more lives.
While Brantly was met with applause upon his hospital exit, Nancy Writebol enjoyed a much quieter discharge. She requested that release not be publicly announced, according to hospital officials. Writebol asked Brantly to convey her thanks to those who had prayed for her during her stay.
Writebol, 59, arrived at Emory three days after Brantly. Unlike Brantly, who walked into the hospital under his own power, Writebol was wheeled in on a stretcher.
Doctors said Writebol responded well to treatment, and was ready to be released two days before Brantly. She asked for privacy and did not attend Thursday's press conference. Doctors said there was no health reason that the public be made aware that she was released.
"She represented no health risk to the public. We did not think there was a public health reason to do that," said Dr. Ribner.
While free of the virus, doctors said Writebol is still regaining her strength while reconnecting with family. She reported asked if she could eventually go back to Africa to continue the missionary work she had embarked on when she contracted the virus.
According to an exclusive 11Alive News poll conducted by SurveyUSA, 66 percent of Georgians agreed with the decision to treat Brantly and Writebol at Emory.