ATLANTA — After nearly a month of being in isolation, both American patients who contracted the deadly Ebola virus have been released from Emory University Hospital.
Doctors announced Thursday that Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly have been cleared of the deadly virus and were not a threat to the public.
"After a rigorous course of treatment and testing, the Emory Healthcare team has determined that both patients have recovered from the Ebola virus and can return to their families and community without concern for spreading this infection to others," said Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory's Infectious Disease Unit.
At a news conference Thursday, Dr. Kent Brantly praised the team of doctors and nurses at Emory University Hospital, and thanked God that he was able to be reunited with his loved ones.
"Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family," Brantly said.
Brantly said he went to Liberia on a 2-year term with Samaritan's Purse and said when he arrived, the virus had not affected many people. But as time went on, Brantly said more and more people started to show symptoms of the virus, eventually contracting the disease himself.
"On Wednesday, July 23, I woke up feeling under the weather. And then my life took an unexpected turn as I was diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease," Brantly said. "As I lie in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help be faithful even in my illness. And I prayed that in my life or in my death, that he would be glorified."
Brantly said he was astounded to find out how many people were praying for his recovery.
"I did not know then but have learned since, that there were thousands, maybe even millions of people around the world praying for me during that week, and even still today," Brantly said.
Channel 2 Action News broke the news earlier in the day that the second Ebola patient, Nancy Writebol, had been released Aug. 19 from the hospital. Brantly read a message from Writebol showing her gratitude.
"My dear friend Nancy Writebol, upon her release from the hospital, wanted me to share her gratitude for all the prayers on her behalf. As she walked out of her isolation room, all she could say was, 'To God be the glory,'" Brantly said.
Brantly said Nancy and her husband were spending some much-needed time together since her release.
Writebol's husband David said in a statement that Nancy "had been in isolation fighting the disease since July 26. Nancy is free of the virus, but the lingering effects of the battle have left her in a significantly weakened condition. Thus, we decided it would be best to leave the hospital privately to be able to give her the rest and recuperation she needs at this time.
"During the course of her fight, Nancy recalled the dark hours of fear and loneliness, but also a sense of the deep abiding peace and presence of God, giving her comfort. She was greatly encouraged knowing that there were so many people around the world lifting prayers to God for her return to health. Her departure from the hospital, free of the disease, is powerful testimony to God's sustaining grace in time of need."
Brantly said at the end of his statement that he and his family were "going away for a period of time to reconnect, to decompress and to continue to recovery physically and emotionally."
Writebol's pastor spoke to her by phone Thursday, saying she's happy to have her husband's arms around her again.
“Being able to restore their intimacy of touch is something they have looked forward to for a long time,” said Calvary Church pastor of missions Jim Cashwell.
He said she is more than thankful for all the prayers and support but she's still worried about those suffering from what nearly killed her.
“Their concerns are still for the people of Liberia,” Cashwell said.
Which prompts the question would doctors allow allow dr. Brantly and writebol to go back to west africa.
One doctor told Channel 2’s Wendy Corona he chose the field of infectious disease because of the intellectual challenge it provides, and said that being the first to see Ebola patients through treatment and recovery is simply overwhelming.
“It sends a message to the world about these patients, that just having the diagnosis of Ebola doesn't mean it's the end,” Dr. Ira Horowitz, Emory University Chief Medical Officer said.
Even one of Brantly's doctors expressed he was a bit anxious at first.
“Anytime anyone says you're going to be taking care of an infectious disease that has a mortality rate of 50-90% it sort of gives you little pause with that,” Dr. Marshall Lyon said.
Lyon said he was never afraid or scared when treating the patients; in fact, he encourages medical students to serve the world in the challenging field of infectious diseases.
“In the last 40 or 50 years, the only new diseases that we've had have been infections, so if you want something that's going to be novel that comes up during your medical career, it's probably going to be in infectious diseases,” he said.
He said the reward was seeing the patients, on a day like Thursday, leaving the hospital.
“I was just absolutely thrilled for both them and their families,” he said.