BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. - The flight crew and medical team that evacuated two American mission workers infected with Ebola from Liberia discussed the challenges of the unprecedented journey.
"We have learned over the years to take everything, but the kitchen sink on every flight so we're prepared." said Chief Nurse Vance Ferebee
Channel 2's Tom Regan got a close-up look Thursday at the specially equipped Gulfstream III Jet used to transport the patients, Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol.
A unique feature of the jet, one of only three of this design in commercial operation, is a large cargo door on the right side. This allows room to load a patient isolation pod called an Aeromedical Biological Containment System.
During their separate 14-hour flights back from Africa, the two patients remained in the ABCS pods, which prevent interior air from escaping. Another nurse, Jonathan Jackson attended to both patients while wearing a contagion protection jump suit.
Jackson gave Regan a short tour of the pod, which has an outer chamber where medical personnel can remove their protective suits before re-entering the cargo area of the aircraft.
"It is just like a hospital where you can hit a button and call the nurse. They had no complaints. I think they were weak, but happy to be going home." said Jackson.
The chief pilot of one of the missions spoke about the detailed planning that went into the evacuations. He said he felt privileged to help save lives and possibly make some medical history.
"We are also aware this would give research opportunity that hopefully will lead to eradication of this horrible disease." said Phoenix Air Capt. Randy Davis.
Phoenix Air specializes in air medical evacuations. The company worked closely with the CDC and the State Department, which initially called the company to see if they had the capability to undertake the evacuation of the Ebola infected patients. After a week of strategy sessions the final plans were drawn up.
"Everyone came up with the consensus, let's go for it." said Phoenix Air VP and COO Dent Thompson.
Thompson said after transporting the patients back for treatment at Emory Hospital, his company received hundreds of emails of congratulations.
"Not a single negative comment on why we were bringing an Ebola-infected patient into the U.S." said Thompson