Weak but improving, the second American Ebola patient to arrive on U.S. soil was wheeled into an Atlanta hospital Tuesday by workers in biohazard suits and taken to an isolation unit for treatment.
Nancy Writebol, one of two aid workers who contracted the deadly virus in Liberia, was flown from Africa overnight in a specially equipped plane and driven by ambulance to Emory University Hospital.
"We’re grateful to everyone who was joined us in praying for this moment," her son Jeremy said in a statement.
At Emory, Writebol joins Dr. Kent Brantly, who arrived at the hospital on Saturday. Brantly, 33, was strong enough to walk into the hospital. Writebol, 59, was taken in by stretcher, her head slightly elevated.
Her husband said from Liberia that she was "very weak" but getting better, and felt well enough before leaving the country to eat yogurt, according to an account given by Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, the Christian missionary organization that Writebol works with.
Writebol and Brantly were working with Ebola patients in Liberia when they contracted Ebola. Johnson said it was still not clear how they were infected.
Both aid workers received doses of an experimental Ebola drug, derived in part from tobacco plants and never before tested on humans, before they left Liberia. Brantly got an additional dose at Emory.
As relayed to reporters by Johnson, the husband, David Writebol, said that her care in Liberia had been exceptional.
He said that going to visit here there was "like going into a nuclear reactor," complete with hot, clumsy, uncomfortable biohazard suits. Still, he said, watching her medical care was "like watching the love of Christ take place right before your eyes."
A week ago, the husband said, the family was thinking about funeral arrangements.
Johnson said that the episode might yet provide some good to the world in that it has focused attention on the plight of West Africa.
More than 1,400 Ebola cases have been confirmed in the worst known outbreak of the disease, and more than 800 people have died. Most of the cases have been in the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
If the experimental drug or anything else about the infections ultimately leads to an Ebola cure, “That would be incredible,” Johnson said.
Brantly’s wife, Amber, said in a statement Tuesday that he is still improving.
The Brantly and Writebol families met for the first time Monday night, said a spokesman for Samaritan’s Purse, Brantly’s aid organization. The Brantlys had spent time together praying for Writebol, and the Writebols thanked the Brantlys for those prayers, the spokesman said.
Amber Brantly’s statement said: "Our families are united in our faith in Jesus, and we will walk through this recovery time together. Please continue to pray for Kent, Nancy and the people of Liberia."