Dallas nurse Nina Pham, who contracted Ebola treating a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, said Friday she feels fortunate and blessed to be free of the deadly virus and is looking forward to seeing her dog Bentley.
Pham, 26, made the statements during a news conference Friday after being discharged from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Flanked by her family and a number of doctors who aided in her recovery, Pham walked out of the NIH Clinical Center to cheers Friday and read a short statement where she thanked those who prayed for her and treated her.
"I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today," Pham said in a brief statement. "Throughout this ordeal, I have put my trust in God and my medical team."
She was introduced to the crowd by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said when Pham was admitted on Oct. 16 that it was their goal that she would walk out of their hospital healthy. On Friday, that goal was realized.
"Our patient Nina Pham is free of Ebola virus," Fauci said, adding that five tests showed that Pham has no more of the virus in her body.
While wearing the colors of Pham's nursing school, Texas Christian University, Fauci called her a "courageous and lovely person," saying that she also represents the nurses and health care workers who put themselves on the line caring for sick patients.
Pham took no questions and left NIH bound for the White House where she, her mother and sister would meet President Barack Obama in the Oval Office along with several of her doctors.
Pham boarded a CareFlite airplane at Baltimore-Washington International Airport Friday evening bound for Fort Worth, where her family has a home.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Pham will be reunited with her dog Bentley, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, on Saturday.
“I’m excited to welcome her home and I know Bentley will be glad to see her. Although Bentley remains under quarantine until the end of the month, Nina will be able to visit, hold and play with him tomorrow. I know that will be good for both of them," said Jenkins in a statement Friday.
Dallas city spokeswoman Sana Syed clarified Jenkins' statement, saying Pham might be allowed to see Bentley, but won't be able to cuddle with her dog until he has cleared a 21-day quarantine. That should happen on Nov. 1. Syed said no reunion plan has been set yet.
Pham's Remarkable Recovery
Nurse Nina Pham made good progress in battling the disease at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas before being transferred to NIH. In Maryland, Pham thanked Fort Worth Dr. Kent Brantly for the "selfless act of donating plasma" as his blood may have aided in her recovery since it carries antibodies against the Ebola virus.
Before being transferred from Dallas, Pham's condition had been listed as good and she appeared lively in a video posted on YouTube. After her transfer to Maryland she was reassessed and listed in fair condition, but doctors were quick to say her condition hadn't deteriorated. On Wednesday, Pham was upgraded to good condition.
Fauci, one of the most highly-regarded immunologists in the world, said they used no experimental drugs in Pham's treatment and was not able to say with any certainty whether the donation of Brantley's plasma was instrumental in her recovery.
No matter how it happened, Pham's co-workers were overjoyed to learn of her recovery and discharge.
“The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas family is thrilled that Nina Pham is Ebola-free and on her way home. Her colleagues and friends eagerly look forward to welcoming her back. Her courage and spirit, first in treating a critically ill Ebola patient and then in winning her own battle against the disease, has truly inspired all of us,” said Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan in a statement.
After her discharge Friday, Pham expressed thanks to those who cared for her and aided in her recovery while asking for prayers for those still battling the disease, including her co-worker Amber Vinson and New York City Dr. Craig Spencer who was diagnosed with the disease Thursday.
"I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me. I do not know how I can ever thank everyone enough for their prayers and their expressions of concern, hope and love. I join you in prayer now for the recovery of others including my colleague and friend Amber Vinson and Dr. Craig Spencer," Pham said.
Spencer is in stable condition and is being treated at Bellvue Hospital in New York. He is believed to have had close contact with only three people, all who are quarantined and asymptomatic.
Pham is believed to have contracted the virus, along with Vinson, while caring for patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died from the disease on Oct. 8.
Pham, the first health care worker to contract the disease in the U.S., was treated for Ebola at Presbyterian Dallas for several days before being transferred to the NIH campus.
Vinson, the second health care worker who tested positive for the virus, was confirmed to have Ebola on Oct. 15 and was transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta from Presbyterian the same day. Vinson's family reported earlier in the week that she was clear of the disease, a statement hospital officials confirmed Friday though they have not said when Vinson will be discharged.
"Amber Vinson is making good progress in her treatment for Ebola virus infection. Tests no longer detect virus in her blood. She remains within Emory's Serious Communicable Diseases Unit for continued supportive care. We do not have a discharge date at this time," the hospital said Friday.
“Nina is a real hero and a devoted nurse who represents all the brave health care workers who’ve put their lives on the line to help others. We are thankful for everyone who cared for Nina at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. "We are also happy to hear the positive prognosis for her colleague Amber Vinson and we look forward to welcoming Amber home soon too."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and hospital officials have not yet been able to determine exactly how Pham and Vinson contracted the often fatal disease.