North Texans Among “Ebola Fighters” Named Time Magazine's Person of the Year

Dr. Kent Brantly, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson are among the "Ebola Fighters" named in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Wednesday, Nina Pham told NBC 5 she was shocked by such an honor.

“My mom came in and was like 'you’re part of TIME’s Person of the Year' and so it’s just a big shock to me,” Pham said. “We did an interview in New York for TIME, but I thought it was just about Ebola coverage so it was just a big shock and surprise. What a great honor.”

Pham recounts the past several months as surreal, and recalls learning she contracted Ebola.

“It was just a big blur,” Pham said, “My chief nursing officer and the CDC doctor came in and in their hazmat suits and could already see they had been crying because of their eyes, and I just knew right then and there it wasn’t good and so it was just flashbacks, I started getting flashbacks of what happened to Mr. Duncan because he had just died 3 or 4 days prior. So it was just devastating news.”

Pham admits she was afraid when she learned of Duncan’s Ebola diagnosis, but said she would never turn her back on a patient.

“I was afraid, but I just never doubted it — it was my job,” Pham said. “I am a nurse, he was a patient, I was the next open bed that day. There was a guy that needed my help and I didn’t want to turn away from it, even though it was uncharted territory, but I just felt it in my heart to help him.”

Days later, Pham was in isolation battling a deadly virus.

“I think the scariest part was when I found out I got diagnosed and then there was a time my doctor came in and gave me an end of life discussion,” Pham said, “So, we had to talk about those things that no 26 year old ever thinks about.”

“You just don’t think that one day you’re otherwise healthy and the next minute somebody is telling you we need to talk about end of life.  I think that was a big eye opening experience for me,” Pham said.

Pham said she is now working to turn a negative into a positive.

“It has been an emotional roller coaster going from taking care of Mr. Duncan to being diagnosed with Ebola myself and coming out of it, surviving it, it has been a life changing experience, and I really want to make a negative into a positive now.”

Part of that emotional roller coaster was the worry for her best friend, Bentley.

“He’s like my baby and I’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old,” Pham said, “You know he’s like my best friend and I think there are a lot of dog lovers, animal lovers and Cavalier lovers out in the world and somehow they just fell in love with Bentley, so I was just glad after hearing what happened to the dog in Spain, I was so fearful that Bentley would have the same fate.”

Now, Nina is gaining her strength, and working to get Bentley back on a normal routine.

“We do regular activities, we run, we play, we go on walks,” Pham said, “it has been a little bit of adjustment period for him, too. He’s such a resilient dog, but you know, with trying to get him back on a regular eating schedule and stuff so it’s had a little effect on him, too, but he’s such a resilient dog. He’ll be back to 100 percent in no time.”

“Physically, I feel OK right now — I do get tired at times, not back to 100 percent yet, but I think most of it is the emotional parts just still struggling with the experience I went through and just how it has affected my life, it’s been so life changing.”

Pham is currently staying with her family and focusing on her health.

“I’m not currently back to work yet,” Pham said, “I’m just staying with my parents focusing on my health, just taking it a day at a time. Hopefully, I can have the rest of the year off to reflect on everything and figure out what’s next for me.”

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