By Christine Mai-Duc, Los Angeles Times
Less than a month after being released from the hospital following his recovery from the Ebola virus, Dr. Kent Brantly appeared in Washington before a congressional panel Wednesday, detailing the pain he endured from the disease and urging the world to act quickly to turn the tide against it.
“Agencies like the World Health Organization remain bound up by bureaucracy,” Brantly told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee during a hearing about global efforts to fight Ebola. “Their speeches, proposals, and plans, though noble, have not resulted in any significant action to stop the spread of Ebola.”
Brantly, who met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday, said he was “pleased” with the announcement that the United States will redouble its efforts in the fight against Ebola, sending 3,000 military personnel to West Africa and committing to training 500 health care providers a week.
“Now, we must make those promises a reality,” Brantly said.
Looking healthy and wearing an American flag pin on the lapel of his gray suit, Brantly expressed his “deep gratitude” toward the U.S. government and the State Department for their role in evacuating him and missionary Nancy Writebol back to the United States.
“Thank you for bringing me home when I was sick,” Brantly said, going on to describe the intense pain and emotional isolation he felt as he struggled to recover in a Liberian Ebola ward.
“Ebola is a scourge that does not even allow its victims to die with dignity,” Brantly testified. “I came to understand the extreme physical and emotional toll that Ebola inflicts in an even more personal way after I was diagnosed.”
Brantly described being cared for by doctors and nurses wearing protective gear that looked like “spacesuits.”
“All I could see were their eyes through their protective goggles. The only human contact I received came through double layers of medical gloves,” he said.
Brantly acknowledged the intense media coverage his infection and subsequent recovery has received, saying he was “grateful” for the awareness it raised. “But it is unfortunate that thousands of African lives and deaths did not warrant the same global attention as two infected Americans,” Brantly told the panel. “Even after this attention, it has been impossible to find medical gloves and rubber boots.”
The doctor said the health care systems in Liberia and other countries affected were having to turn patients away, and urged U.S. officials and others to turn their attention toward providing home health care providers with education and protective gear.
Brantly said he had heard recently that the facility where he was working in Monrovia, and where he contracted the disease, was turning away as many as 30 infected patients a day.
“If we do not provide education and protective equipment to caregivers, we will be condemning countless mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons to death simply because they chose not to let their loved ones die alone,” Brantly said.
AFP Photo/Joni Byker
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