As Dr. Kent Brantly recuperated from his battle with the Ebola virus, his family members had the chance to catch their breath, too.
Brantly was serving with Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization in Liberia, when the Ebola virus was spread in the area. He, his wife, Amber, and their children decided to stay and help those infected. About a month into his work, Brantly tested positive for the virus.
Brantly Houston, senior advertising and public relations major from Abilene, was in Indianapolis with his grandparents when he learned his uncle contracted the virus.
“It was really easy for me to figure out what was going on,” he said. “I kind of had a peace about it, though; I wasn’t worried.”
A large amount of his family was in Indianapolis with him when the news broke, he said, and were able to get in contact with Brantly.
“There was a lot of crying, fear and uncertainty,” he said. “To me it kind of looked like helplessness. But I really just felt like it was going to be fine.”
A few days later, Houston’s family left for a wedding in Texas, and the situation became more challenging for him.
“I kind of felt a bit out of the loop,” he said. “That’s when it started getting frustrating and when more intensity was going on.”
Then the calls began to pour in; reporters from all over the country were trying to get the story.
“Every few minutes the reporters were calling. It was crazy,” he said. “Being a mass communication major, I kind of understood. They were just doing their job. But it was kind of like, good grief, calm down.”
The family was soon overwhelmed by the attention. Dr. Gary Green, coordinator of World Wide Witness and longtime friend of Amber Brantly’s family, reached out to them after hearing the news.
He said the timing was bittersweet for the family. Near the same time Brantly was diagnosed, they were celebrating the birth of their eldest son’s first child, another son getting married and another family member’s birthday.
“Their emotions were all over the charts,” he said.
Green said some of the family’s friends were nervous to interact with them, operated off of fear and pulled back. With the added pressure of the press, Green said the family had difficulty processing it all.
“I would say their faith was not lost,” Green said. “They were solid and consistent in the hope and faith of the Lord.”
As alarming news about Brantly’s health kept coming, family members reached out for help and prayers. Randy Harris, instructor and director of the College of Biblical Studies, said Brantly’s brother got in touch with him before he was to preach at Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth – Brantly’s home church.
“I was just basically asking him what he wanted me to say to the church,” Harris said.
Brantly requested prayers for his colleague, Nancy Writebol, the second American infected with Ebola.
At the end of September, Brantly and Writebol’s health declined and an experimental serum was flown to them to ease the virus’ symptoms. Brantly requested the serum first go to Writebol, but as his health took a turn for the worst, he received the first injection. Days later, on Aug. 2, Brantly and Writebol found themselves on an aircraft from Liberia to the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Once in the isolation center of the hospital, Brantly and Writebol were able to see family and recover. As they talked in isolation and exchanged texts, Harris said Brantly related his situation to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and said he wouldn’t stop praising God because of his circumstances.
However, Brantly wasn’t ready to allow the United States to forget about the Ebola epidemic.
Jumping back into the spotlight on the people’s behalf, Brantly continues to advocate for the U.S. action against Ebola today. On Sept. 17, he visited and talked with Congress and President Barack Obama about his first-hand experience with the virus and the need for U.S. action.
Brantly’s story is shared with hundreds of people each day as he and his family talk with reporters from ABC, The Los Angeles Times, TIME Magazine, NPR and other publications.
Houston said he was proud of his uncle and the mindset he maintained through the whole ordeal.
“In a super high intensity situation like that, it’s hard to keep throwing it back to faith,” he said.
Harris said the media’s involvement was the same problem as Brantly’s dedication to God being challenged, but in a different context.
“It’s Kent story to tell, but I think he would say, ‘I’m just a big disciple of Jesus,'” Harris said.