In the Ebola epidemic, humanity at its best

Scrubs and medical supplies.

Scrubs and medical supplies. (Credit: iStock)

William F. B. O'Reilly

Portrait of Newsday/amNY columnist Bill O'Reilly (March 28, William F. B. O'Reilly

William F. B. O'Reilly works as a corporate and political

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Just when you're starting to give up on the human race, a Dr. Kent Brantly shows up.

They don't make heroes like Brantly anymore. Then again, I guess they do.

Brantly is the 33-year-old Texas doctor who packed his young family off to Africa to give free health care to the poor. When the Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa, he found himself treating victims of that virus.

Brantly is now fighting Ebola himself, and is expected to be flown home to the United States for treatment over the next few days. His family has returned home to Texas where they are in quarantine. You can go online and see photos of Brantly with his wife and two children in Africa. They are a beautiful family.

You can also go online and look at the effects of Ebola. But I don't recommend it. I made the mistake of doing that after learning about Brantly's story. I'm sorry I did. I had heard about the ravages of hemorrhagic fever, which is what Ebola causes in its second stage, but I had no idea. It splits bodies wide open, live. The mortality rate for victims is 90 percent.

These were the Ebola symptoms Brantly was treating when he contracted the virus. These were the symptoms that, despite every precaution, he knew he might be next to have.

And yet Brantly's heroism didn't stop there. After contracting Ebola, a single batch of experimental medicine landed in the Liberian camp where Brantly is quartered. It was his chance to survive the body ruptures and to see his wife and children again. Brantly gave the medicine away. He gave it to fellow missionary with Ebola named Nancy Writebol who is on her way, under strict quarantine, to an Atlanta clinic. The experimental medicine didn't work, according to field reports. Only time will tell whether the clinic can now save Writebol, who is from Charlotte, N.C., a hero herself.

As a boy, I went to a summer camp where the principle of selflessness was heavily fostered. We were told of a military general from antiquity who found himself mortally wounded on a battlefield on a hot summer day. He was parched with thirst and asked his men to bring him water. As they drained a few precious drops into a cup, a common field soldier was brought in, he, too, mortally wounded and crying out for water. There was only enough for one. The general pushed the cup away, "Give the water to him," he told his troops, "for his need is greater than mine."

To me, Kent Brantly's story is even more compelling. It should be recalled at summer camps like the one I attended and in gatherings everywhere, no matter how it turns out. In a selfish and cynical world, Brantly shames and inspires us. His actions prove there is hope for mankind after all. What a gift in a cruel, cruel world.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant who is working on the Rob Astorino campaign for governor.

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