WELLNESS
07/31/2015 05:36 pm ET Updated Dec 20, 2016

One Year Later, Emory's Medical Staff Looks Back On The Ebola Crisis

It brought them closer together.

When Dr. Kent Brantly contracted Ebola during a medical mission to treat others with the disease in Liberia last summer, the U.S. State Department gave Emory University Hospital 72 hours notice before transferring Brantly into their doctors' care.

"The first question was: Did we have the ability to care for these patients?" said Nancye Feistritzer, chief nursing officer of the hospital, as she reflected on the experience in the video above. "The second question was: Could we do it safely?

"If the answer to both of those were yes," she added, "then it was really not a question of whether we should -- we would."

Over the following days, as the doctors and nurses cared for Brantly, a second patient -- missionary Nancy Writebol -- was admitted to the hospital with Ebola, fueling even more media coverage and an increasingly concerned public. The hospital would go on to successfully treat four Ebola patients in total.

"We can either let our actions be guided by misunderstandings, fear and self-interest, or we can lead by knowledge, science and compassion," Susan Grant, chief nurse for Emory Healthcare wrote in a Washington Post Op-Ed. "We can fear, or we can care."

Under Emory's watchful eye, both Brantly and Writebol recovered the deadly disease, which killed more than 11,000 people during what's considered the largest Ebola outbreak in history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On July 30, the World Health Organization announced that a new vaccine to prevent Ebola was 100 percent effective during a trial in Guinea.

And despite all of the challenges involved in caring for highly infectious patients amidst intense media scrutiny, Emory's doctors and nurses said it was among the most collaborative environments they'd worked in -- and that they felt a special connection to their patients, too.

Brantly felt a similar sense of camaraderie when treating Ebola patients in Liberia. "Ebola is a humiliating disease that strips you of your dignity," he told TIME in September. "You are removed from family and put into isolation where you cannot even see the faces of those caring for you due to the protective suits -- you can only see their eyes," he said.

"We tried our best to treat patients like our own family. Through our protective gear we spoke to each patient, calling them by name and touching them. We wanted them to know they were valuable, that they were loved, and that we were there to serve them," he added. 

Watch "Ebola at Emory: An Extraordinary Year" above to see Emory's staff reflect on the one-year anniversary of caring for Brantly and Writebol. 

 

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