With death all around him and the Ebola virus spreading, Dr. Kent Brantly refused to leave.
The Franklin native and Indiana-trained doctor had come to the African nation of Liberia to serve as a medical missionary. When an outbreak swept through the country in 2014, he was central to the medical response to the disease, a hemorrhagic fever that killed 80 percent of its victims in excruciating, gruesome ways.
“It would have been easy to give in to fear in those days, but we had to face death in the eye and decide, ‘Who am I going to be today?’” Brantly said in a news release.
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But as he developed a slight fever that intensified with frightening speed, Brantly went from doctor to patient. He had been diagnosed with Ebola.
Brantly’s story will hit movie theaters today with a premier screening of “Facing Darkness.” The documentary focuses on Brantly and another American aid worker, hygienist Nancy Writebol, as they worked in Liberia, were diagnosed with Ebola and rushed to the U.S. for what proved to be life-saving treatment.
Kent Brantly grew up in central Indiana. His father is Dr. Jim Brantly, who worked as medical director of emergency medicine at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin for more than 20 years. Jim Brantly retired from his role at the hospital in 2011. Kent Brantly attended Indiana University School of Medicine before moving to Texas.
The film not only spotlights the bravery and steadfast faith of Kent Brantly and Writebol in the face of a horrific disease, but also brings attention to the efforts of countless other medical professionals who helped contain the outbreak.
After debuting in October at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, “Facing Darkness” will be shown in theaters around the country for two nights only, 7 p.m. today and April 10.
The film was created by Samaritan’s Purse, a humanitarian organization working in more than 100 countries. The missionary group was active providing missionary care when Ebola broke out in March 2014.
Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever, headaches and weakness that can escalate to vomiting, diarrhea and kidney and liver problems. Some patients bleed internally and externally.
The West African outbreak in 2014 would eventually go on to kill more than 11,000 people.
“It’s important to remember that Samaritan’s Purse was serving in Liberia years before the Ebola epidemic made headlines around the world. Our mission is to bring emergency relief to suffering people in Jesus’ Name, and that often takes us to difficult and dangerous places,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, in a news release. “We didn’t just react to the Ebola outbreak. We saw it coming and did all we could to stem its rise. When the epidemic erupted, our team on the ground stayed and fought it.”
Brantly and his family had moved to Liberia to work with World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse. After the outbreak started, his wife and children returned to the U.S. But he remained in Africa to provide care.
Throughout “Facing Darkness,” video shows Brantly working in the villages and makeshift hospitals erected to treat the ill.
Footage shows the terrible effects of the disease. At the same time, the film shifts as Brantly and Writebol are diagnosed. Their best hope for survival was to be evacuated back to the U.S. for an experimental drug treatment.
Brantly was treated in isolation at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. He was the first person in the world to receive the treatment, and after 20 days, was determined to be Ebola-free.
“Facing Darkness” captures all of this as it was happening, weaving in stories of their families and medical officials praying for a positive outcome. The film focuses on faith, and how Brantly and Writebol never wavered in their commitment to help the people of Liberia.
“My wife, Amber, and I were acutely aware of how serious the situation was — in fact it seemed hopeless,” Brantly said in the news release. “But I truly felt God’s peace that is beyond understanding. We had trusted in God when we moved our family to Liberia, and we were not going to stop trusting him now just because I got sick. I wanted to be faithful even in death.”
What: A documentary spotlighting American medical workers Dr. Kent Brantly — a Franklin native — and Nancy Writebol, who were in the middle of the Liberian Ebola outbreak of 2014, and were both diagnosed with the deadly disease.
When: The film will be shown at 7 p.m. today and 7 p.m. April 10
Where: AMC Indianapolis 17, 4325 S. Meridian St.