The American doctor who contracted Ebola while working with a charity organization in Liberia arrived Saturday at the Atlanta hospital where he will receive treatment in one of the most sophisticated isolation units in the country.
Dr. Kent Brantly — the first person infected with Ebola on U.S. soil — climbed out of an ambulance with the help of another person, who steadied the 33-year-old doctor as they walked the short length to an entrance at Emory University Hospital. Brantly was dressed in a hooded biocontainment suit while his guide also wore elaborate protective gear.
Doctors administered preliminary medical tests on Brantly upon his arrival to the facility, according a representative for the Christian charity organization Samaritan’s Purse. Following the testing, Brantly was able to meet with his wife for about 45 minutes. “She said he was in great spirits and extremely grateful,” a spokesman for Samaritan’s Purse said.
Brantly’s sister, mother and father, also traveled to Atlanta and were at the hospital, but his two children, ages 3 and 5, did not make the trip.
Brantly’s wife, Amber, said in a statement her husband was happy to be back in the U.S. and “it was a relief to welcome him home.”
Brantly landed at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Georgia, at 11:20 a.m. ET in a plane specially outfitted with containment equipment, Samaritan’s Purse said in a statement. The arrival and transfer was “uneventful,” said Dobbins Air Reserve base spokesman Lt. Col. James Wilson, adding, “We are pleased about that.”
Nancy Writebol, a second American infected with the deadly disease, will be evacuated from Liberia and placed in the same “hospital isolation unit” with Brantly, Dr. Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist at Emory, told NBC News.
The unit “has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation,” and is one of only four of its kind in the country, Emory said in a statement. Doctors and nurses are specifically trained and practiced in treating “this type of patient,” the hospital added.
“I feel totally safe,” said Varkey, the Emory doctor. All tests and treatment can be done within the isolated room, and visitors will only be able to speak with and see the patients from behind a glass barricade, Varkey added.
Extraordinary precautions were also used during Brantly’s trip to the hospital, and the same will be done with Writebol’s journey, officials said. “The patients will be escorted throughout by specially and frequently trained teams that have sufficient resources to transport the patients so that there is no break in their medical care or exposure to others,” the U.S. Defense Department said.
Writebol will make the same trip to Dobbins in the same plane that Brantly took Saturday, according to SIM, the Christian mission organization that she works with. Lt. Col. Wilson said Writebol would likely arrive “early next week.”
Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan’s Purse, said he was thankful to God that the two Ebola patients are alive and have “access to the best care in the world.”
Writebol remains in serious but stable condition, according to SIM. “We can’t wait to have her back home,” said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA. Her family said in a statement Saturday they are thankful that Brantly made it safely to the U.S. and they are praying for his recovery.
Ebola has infected more than 1,300 people and killed 729 of them in the current West African outbreak, according to the CDC.