Doctor treating Ebola patients in Africa has local roots

Doctor treating Ebola patients in Africa has local roots »Play Video
RICHLAND, Wash. -- The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is hitting close to home for one local family. We learned one doctor who is overseeing Ebola patients in Liberia was born and raised in Richland.

Don Fankhauser and his mother Joanne look over a picture of his brother John's family. They're used to seeing the family of five travel abroad on charitable missions, but their elation turned stressful when Ebola broke out in the West African village near where they were staying.

"We've really worried about him. Worried about his family and it's been stressful," says brother Don.

Doctor John Fankhauser grew up in Richland. He graduated as a Bomber and went on to study medicine at the University of Washington. John, his wife and three kids have a house in California--but have spent most of their lives traveling the globe on missions through various church organizations.

It was back in July when he knew he would be staying in Liberia indefinitely.

"He told me he's there until this is solved," his mother Joanne says.

John has been one of the few American Doctors helping out in Monrovia, one of the hardest hit areas of the outbreak. He treated Doctor Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, the two American's who are infected.

Brantly was just transported back to the US Saturday. John's brother says it's surreal to see him pop up on TV.

"We watch the world news and we're looking at these pictures in Monrovia Liberia at this hospital where Dr.Brantly's at knowing that of the people suited up is likely John," he said.

While John's future is uncertain, his local family here in Richland hasn't stopped supporting him.

"His last few phone conversations have been real upbeat, and I think that gives us some peace of mind," Don added.

Though his mother says she's not surprised that he's staying on longer to help those in need. It's just what their family does.

"You'd have to know John and Don and their sister to know they're very focused and very into this kind of stuff. I guess we just raised them that way," Joanne said, smiling.

And it's that spirit Joanne and Don hope will bring their family member home safe and soon.

We learned Monday afternoon that Dr. Fankhauser's family is being evacuated from West Africa.

John says he plans to stay and treat infected patients until the outbreak is gone. It could be months before he comes back to the states.