The hour-long NBC News special "Saving Dr. Brantly: The Inside Story of a Medical Miracle" aired Friday night.
The report by NBC's Matt Lauer features an exclusive interview with Dr. Kent Brantly, who contracted the often-deadly Ebola virus while serving as a medical missionary in Liberia.
It's an incredible piece of journalism that includes additional reflections from Brantly's wife Amber, Samaritan's Purse CEO Franklin Graham and doctors and nurses involved in his care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
As the special begins, Lauer emphasizes that Brantly's faith will play a major role in this story:
He may be one of the luckiest men alive, and Dr. Kent Brantly probably thinks there are two very good reasons for that.
He attributes his victory over the deadly Ebola virus to a combination of faith and science.
As a devout Christian and a physician, he’s a man of both.
He was serving as a missionary doctor in Liberia when he became infected, and tonight in an NBC News exclusive, Dr. Brantly and the brave medical team that helped to save his life tell for the first time the extraordinary story of how he was cured.
Seconds later, Lauer begins delving into Brantly's faith:
Voiceover: Kent Brantly was fighting for his life because he was committed to saving the lives of others. He’s forever grateful to the heroic doctors and nurses who went to extremes to save him and, most of all, to God. Serving others has always been his life’s mission, an expression of his faith.
Lauer (interviewing Brantly): Talk to me about faith. Talk to me about the role it plays in your life.
Brantly: Faith is central to my life. I’ve grown up with strong Christian, godly parents who were the children of strong Christian, godly parents, and …
Lauer: So, it’s in your DNA?
Voiceover: Growing up in the Indianapolis area, he was a 17-year-old student at a Christian academy when he went on his first mission as an aid worker to Kenya. In the years to come, there was no stopping him.
Lauer: Correct me if I’m wrong, but there was Tanzania, Haiti, Uganda, Nicaragua. What am I leaving out?
Brantly: Guatemala, El Salvador.
Voiceover: One of those trips inspired him to choose a career in medicine.
Brantly: I went on a mission trip for a couple of weeks to Honduras and spent some time with a medical missionary, and I said, “I think I can do this.”
At the end of the hour-long special, Lauer returns again to faith and asks a difficult question:
Lauer: You said to me in no uncertain terms that while it’s probably a combination of factors that God saved your life. (Brantly nods affirmation.) And when you said that before, there was some reaction to that. Some people said, “He’s saying his faith in God saved him.” But is that in some way saying, "All those people in Liberia who died because of this virus didn’t have the same faith in God — that he didn’t spare them?”
Brantly: That’s a really difficult issue. I don’t think there’s anything special about me that made God save my life. And I don’t think God saving the life of one person and another person dying means that there’s something more important about that one person than the other.
Lauer: Or stronger about their faith?
Brantly: I survived, and I want to give credit to God for bringing me through that. Like you said, it was a combination of factors that treated my medical condition. It was the team in Liberia that was taking care of me. There was the experimental drug. There were the doctors and nurses at Emory and the technology and resources of Emory University Hospital and the CDC. When I see all of those things coming together, when I see how every piece of the puzzle came together to provide me with the care that I received, I see the hand of God at work, and I have to give him glory.
Here at GetReligion, we talk often about holy ghosts in news reports in which journalists fail to engage important religion angles.
There are no such ghosts here. Kudos to Matt Lauer and NBC News. Watch the full report.