Dallas nurse Amber Vinson, the second health care worker to contract Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, has recovered from the potentially deadly virus and was discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta Tuesday.
"I’m so grateful to be well and first and foremost, I want to thank God," Vinson said. "I sincerely believe that with God all things are possible."
Vinson, 29, entered the room to a round of applause and was introduced by Dr. Bruce Ribner, assistant professor of medicine and a specialist in infectious disease and internal medicine at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
In a short statement, Vinson thanked her family, doctors and caretakers, including Ebola survivors Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, both who donated plasma, while asking that "we not lose focus on the thousands of families who continue to labor under the burden of this disease in West Africa" where nearly half of the 10,000 infected have died.
Emory University Hospital spokeswoman Holly Korschun confirmed to the Associated Press that Vinson received blood plasma from Brantly, and said Writebol also donated her plasma, but it wasn't ultimately needed.
Vinson took no questions and asked for privacy for her and her family after they return to Texas.
"My family and I would like to thank many people whose prayers have helped sustain us. As we head back home to Texas, we are grateful and we respectfully ask for the privacy my family and I need at this time."
Vinson traveled back to North Texas on a CareFlite charter plane, landing at Dallas Love Field Airport just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The hospital confirmed Vinson was free of the Ebola virus Oct. 24, several days after her family said the virus could not be detected in her blood. Though she was clear of the disease, Vinson remained in the hospital under the care of the serious communicable disease unit until her release.
During a question and answer period Tuesday, Ribner would not say why Vinson remained hospitalized for more than a week after she was cleared of the virus, citing patient confidentiality.
"We are pleased with Ms. Vinson’s recovery and grateful for our opportunity to apply our training, care and experience in meeting her medical needs. As fellow members of the health care community, we deeply admire Ms. Vinson’s courage and dedication in caring with patients with communicable diseases," Ribner said.
Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital released a statement that commended Vinson for making "a brave choice to volunteer and provide care for a critically ill Ebola patient."
"Amber and her fellow caregiver, Nina Pham, are an inspiration for healthcare workers nationwide, and we at Texas Health Dallas could not be more proud of them," the release stated.
Vinson tested positive for the disease in Dallas and was flown to Emory Oct. 15. She became symptomatic Oct. 14, one day after flying on a commercial flight from Cleveland to Dallas. As a result of her three-day trip to Cleveland to visit family and plan her wedding, three people remain in quarantine and 163 are being monitored for symptoms of Ebola in Ohio.
As of Tuesday, none of those who had contact with Vinson have shown any sign of the virus and officials anticipate the Ohio contacts will be removed from the contact list between Oct. 31 and Nov. 4.
Vinson's family has defended her decision to fly home to Dallas the day before she fell ill with Ebola, saying that she made the decision in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with guidance from her own hospital. She had been cleared by the CDC to fly just before she boarded the flight, the CDC said last week, hours after the CDC chief told reporters she should not have flown.
Vinson was the third person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. She was one of two Dallas nurses who contracted the virus while treating Duncan, the first person diagnosed in the U.S. with the disease, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
The other nurse, Nina Pham, was treated at Presbyterian before being relocated to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland Oct. 16. Five tests indicated Pham was clear of the disease and she was discharged Oct. 24. She flew back to Texas the same day following a quick meeting in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama.
It is still unclear how both nurses contracted the virus. Vinson said she wore protective gear including face shields, hazardous materials suits and protective footwear as she inserted catheters, drew blood and dealt with Duncan's body fluids. She worked on Duncan for three days in late September when he was producing "extensive" diarrhea and vomit.
Duncan died from the disease Oct. 8.
Though no lawsuits have been filed, experts said both Pham and Vinson could sue saying they were not kept safe by their employer. Dallas personal injury lawyer Brent Walker said any potential lawsuit on behalf of Vinson or Pham would likely have to seek a payout through the state worker's compensation system, but that if the women are both able to fully recover and return to normal lives any settlement likely would be limited.
Vinson's family has hired high-profile attorney Billy Martin, who previously represented NFL player Michael Vick.