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Ebola: A Medical Drama Unfolds


July 26 -- Brantly and Nancy Writebol, a missionary serving as a personnel coordinator for SIM, another medical missions organization, are confirmed as having Ebola, according to Ken Isaacs.

“He [Brantly] is such a meticulous physician. He does everything almost to perfection. I just couldn’t believe that he had gotten it,” Furman recalls.

For Furman, the news was especially hard to bear. He had helped to make the decision to send the Brantlys to Liberia.

“It’s a tough time to realize that someone we chose to go could be dying from Ebola. It was just a tough time,” he recalls.

Samaritan’s Purse is offered the same box of frozen ZMapp serum samples that was extended to Khan’s care team. They take it.

July 29 -- Dr. Sheik Umar Khan dies in Sierra Leone.

July 31 -- With his condition deteriorating rapidly, Brantly is given a dose of the experimental treatment, ZMapp.

Furman gets updates via telephone every 6 to 8 hours from Lance Plyler, MD, the doctor treating Brantly in Africa.

Plyler tells Furman that Brantly’s temperature is “sky high” and his breathing is rapid at 40 respirations per minute. Normally adults take 12 to 16 breaths per minute.

“Our doctor there said he didn’t think he was going to make it. That was the first time they ever said that,” Furman recalls.

“That’s when he got the medicine,” Furman says. “And it was remarkable. His temperature starts down and his breathing started slowing down, and for the first time, he said, ‘I think I’m going to make it.’”

Writebol is also given a dose of ZMapp, though her response was not as dramatic.

5pm, July 31 -- A jet equipped with a special isolation pod is dispatched from an airfield in Cartersville, GA, to evacuate the American Ebola patients from Liberia, according to CNN reporters who witnessed the plane’s takeoff.

The plane can carry only one passenger at a time.

“There is only one airplane in the world with one chamber to carry a level-4 pathogenic disease victim,” Isaacs said during his congressional testimony. “That plane is in the United States. There is no other aircraft in the world that I can find. That means the U.S. does not have the capacity to evacuate its citizens in any significant mass.”

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