Saving Kent Brantly – An Interview with Dr. Lance Plyler

You were the doctor who was involved in diagnosing your friend Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol with Ebola a few months ago. How did it happen?

Dr. Lance Plyler: In terms of equipment, we were prepared. We followed international standards of protocol, and we actually had a good supply chain of equipment. We had taken all the proper steps, yet two of our own still became infected. It was only later that we determined Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol might have become infected outside of the Ebola treatment units at the hospital. When Kent and Nancy became infected it was devastating. I’ll never forget when I received that text from the reference laboratory just outside of Monrovia that said, “I am sorry to inform you that [Kent Brantley’s] test is positive.”

So what happened next?

Dr. Lance Plyler: After I informed Kent that he was positive for Ebola, he looked down and said, “I was really hoping that you wouldn’t say that.” And it was there that our medical team went to work and provided around-the-clock supportive care to Kent and Nancy.

Through a long series of events I was made aware of ZMapp. I discussed it with the medical team, and we all just had a peace about it. And through a miraculous series of events we were able to acquire a ZMapp, which is amazing because there were only five known courses of it in the world. [One of them was sitting in Sierra Leone at the bedside of a doctor who did not receive the treatment appropriately.] There was great anxiety about whether or not they should administer this drug that had never been given to a human. In the end, they elected not to give it to him, and that’s when I made a request for the drug. It was then transferred from Sierra Leone by canoe to the border of Guinea and Liberia. And then we flew it into the capital, Monrovia. It finally arrived in a styrofoam container, and I was more scared than ever because I had to make the final decision.

There was only one course of therapy and two patients. And we had been advised that the courses of the drug should not be split because it required all three doses to completely eradicate the virus. Initially, Kent was more clinically stable than Nancy, so Kent and I mutually decided that we would administer the entire course of ZMapp to Nancy. But the next day Kent was distinctly worse. In fact, I was convinced that he was dying. I’ve been practicing medicine for 25 years, and I saw that he had the serious look of death. And instantly I felt that God wanted me to give the antibodies to Kent. So I told him that we would give him the antibodies. He could barely speak, but I heard him say “ok.” decided to split the antibodies, giving Kent the first dose and Nancy the second and third doses. Kent had an incredibly dramatic response to the ZMapp. His temperature was 104.7, he was breathing rapidly, and his oxygen level was very low. But within an hour or two he made a dramatic turn for the better. His intense rash diminished, his respiratory rate relaxed, and his fever went down. He hadn’t walked in a day and a half, but he was able to do so after taking this dose. I texted Lisa Hensley from the National Institute of Health and told her how Kent made a dramatic recovery, asking her if it was possible. The text she sent back to me said, “Absolutely.” She said that the monkeys they tested would often get better within hours. We administered the doses to Kent and Nancy on the same night, and then they received their completed doses when they both were successfully evacuated to Emery University. We weren’t sure that they would be able to finish their doses, but God miraculously provided and Emery was able to get an additional course. God just systematically worked miracle after miracle to save their lives.

Why do you think Kent recovered so quickly?

Dr. Lance Plyler:  Only two things transpired when Kent was dying: prayer and antibodies. We sent out an alert and I called his wife, Amber, because I was so afraid he was going to die. I told her what was happening and she got on her knees and prayed. I said the same thing to Ken Isaacs, our VP of Programs and Government Relations. I said, “Kenny, it doesn’t look good; I think Kent’s dying.” So everybody was informed from the bottom to the top. All the employees of Samaritans Purse, including Franklin Graham, were praying for Kent’s recovery. And there was also a global appeal for prayer. So, what saved Kent Brantly? It was prayers and antibodies – in that order.


Here’s How You Can Help

Haven Ministries has partnered with SIM and Samaritan’s Purse to bring aid to West Africa. They are in urgent need of increased support to maintain their fight against this epidemic.

Here’s what your gift will help provide:
It all adds up. And our goal is to raise $100,000 through Haven Ministries’ Ebola Aid to West Africa campaign. Your gift matters and will directly help contain Ebola and minister to those who are suffering from it. Will you give today?
*Not a dime for Haven. Every dollar you give for Haven’s Ebola Aid for West Africa will be sent in rapid disbursements to on-the-ground efforts fighting Ebola in West Africa.

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