By Dr. Kent Brantly, Fort Worth, Texas
I’ve come to be known as the first Ebola patient to be treated in the United States, but I’d prefer to think of myself simply as a family physician.
I was born and raised in Indiana, and trained in family medicine in Texas. I spent the last year living and working as a missionary doctor in a small hospital outside Monrovia, Liberia. So when the Ebola virus came to that country, I was among the first to treat infected patients. And in late July, I contracted the disease.
I quickly came to understand firsthand what my own patients had suffered – the humiliation, the horror, and the sense of utter helplessness. As an American citizen, I was thankful that I was able to be evacuated back to Atlanta, where I received excellent treatment and survived this terrible disease.
The thousands of people still suffering from Ebola in West Africa don’t have that option. So medical professionals and aid workers from around the world have been going to them-standing shoulder to shoulder in this fight.
Those who have already gone have made a difference, but there is still more that must be done. Effectively fighting this disease is like extinguishing a raging fire.
You need to attack the flames at the base and keep them from spreading further. To do this, we urgently need more medical personnel to treat patients in West Africa.
If you’re a qualified medical professional and want to volunteer to work in West Africa, the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) can connect you with reputable organizations that are active in the Ebola response.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is also developing an introductory safety training course for licensed clinicians who want to work in an Ebola Treatment Unit.
If you are a medical professional considering traveling to West Africa, please don’t let irrational fear stand in your way. I am extremely confident that I did not contract Ebola in the isolation unit in Liberia- but rather in the emergency room of our hospital. Within the isolation unit, our procedures, protocols, and equipment were all extraordinarily safe. And thousands of other aid workers have safely served in Ebola Treatment Units with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and adequate training.
If you aren’t a medical professional, there are vital ways to contribute to the fight stateside, as well. Donate money to the organizations that are serving on the front lines of West Africa. Learn about Ebola and educate your friends- knowledge is power, and in this case, that means power to overcome fear. Maybe you can even come up with the next “Ice Bucket Challenge” to increase awareness and raise funds to put an end to Ebola!
The health care workers, aid workers, and military personnel who have chosen to go to a place of great suffering- to help and serve people- should be honored and celebrated as heroes. The United States military is the best organization in the world to provide logistical support for the organizations and countries fighting on the front lines against this disease. This effort should be expanded.
Please, continue to pray for the people of West Africa who are facing such devastation in the midst of this epidemic. We must not lose our sense of compassion for our neighbors. Our struggle with Ebola as a global community is far from over-but I am confident that we will beat this. It’s going to take every one of us.
God bless you all,