Nina Pham "free of the Ebola virus," NIH says
2010 graduate and Dallas nurse says she "feels blessed" after testing five times to be "virus-free."
by Rick Waters '95
Updated: Friday, October 24, 2014
Nina Pham, a 2010 graduate of the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences, was declared "free of the Ebola virus" today. (TV Screen capture)
Dallas nurse and 2010 TCU graduate Nina Pham, who was the first U.S. citizen to be infected with the Ebola virus, was pronounced “virus-free” today by the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Pham, 26, is “cured of Ebola,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Pham, who contracted the disease while treating Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital earlier this month, had been receiving treatment in Maryland since Oct. 16.
“Our patient, Nina Pham, is free of the Ebola virus. She has no virus in her,” said Fauci, noting that doctors got five consecutive negative responses to her PCR tests, which determine if a patient has the virus.
“She feels well. She looks extraordinary well,” he added.
Dressed in a turquoise blouse and business suit, Pham attended a news conference in Maryland, joined by her mother and sister. Pham hugged Fauci before reading a statement. She did not take any questions from the media.
“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today,” Pham said. “Throughout this ordeal, I’ve put my trust in God and my medical team. I am on my way back to recovery even as I reflect on how many others have not been so fortunate. I am so incredibly thankful for everyone involved in my care.”
Pham and her family are expected to fly home to Texas today.
In addition to Texas Presbyterian and NIH doctors and nurses, Pham thanked Dr. Kent Brantly, who donated plasma to her after his own recovery a month ago. Brantly, also of Fort Worth, was one of the first U.S. doctors to become infected with Ebola while treating patients in West Africa.
“As a nurse, I have a special appreciation for the care I received from so many people. Not just from doctors and nurses but the whole support team,” she said.
“I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me,” she continued. “I do not know how I can ever thank everyone enough for their prayers and expressions of concern, hope and love.”
Pham said she joins those praying for the recovery of fellow Texas Presbyterian nurse Amber Vinson and Doctors Without Borders physician Craig Spencer.
Moments after the press conference, Emory Hospital in Atlanta reported that tests no longer detect Ebola in Vinson. Her discharge date has not been set.
Pham asked for privacy for herself and her family as they return to Texas. She also expressed excitement to reconnect with her dog Bentley.
“This whole experience has been very stressful and challenging for me and for my family,” she said. “Although I no longer have Ebola, I know it may be a while before I have my strength back.”
Earlier, Fauci commended Pham as a devoted nurse and acknowledged that he was wearing purple and apricot ribbons to designate the school colors of Pham’s alma mater, TCU, and Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences where she studied.
“We should have a shoutout for Texas Christian [University] for training such an extraordinary individual,” Fauci said.
Before leaving Washington, D.C., Pham and her family met with President Obama in the Oval Office. The president and Pham shared a two-armed hug as he wished her well. According to media reports, presidential aides contacted the NIH to invite Pham to the White House "if she felt up to it."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told media outlets that Obama wanted to celebrate with Pham because she had been so selfless in caring for Duncan at Presbyterian.
“She dove in and treated this individual without regard for her own health… She didn’t get a raise. She certainly didn’t do it for the glory,” Earnest was quoted as saying.
The news of Pham's recovery also was met with jubilation on campus and across the country. On Twitter, TCU students and alumni celebrated the news and shared well-wishes with the hashtag #WelcomeHomeNina. Texas Health Resources tweeted as photo of Texas Health Presbyterian doctors, nurses and hospital personnel cheering while watching the news conference. In Austin, Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauded Pham's bravery. “I ask all Texans to join me in wishing her a full and speedy recovery,” Perry said in a prepared statement. “We thank her for her heroism and selflessness in the battle against Ebola."
Dr. Suzy Lockwood, director of undergraduate nursing for the Harris College, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Pham was a standout student.
"I clearly remember Nina's positive attitude during her clinical coursework at TCU — the care she provided was not just clinically correct but also showed a genuinely caring spirit," Lockwood toid the paper. "And she always had that big smile that you see in her pictures."
Pham's reunion with her dog Bentley, a 1-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who also has tested Ebola-free and will likely be released from Hensley Field Services Center, a former U.S. naval air station, following one more specimen test at the end of his 21-day quarantine period, will be coming soon, according to media reports.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement that 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.”
On the Web:
Watch videocast the NIH news conference
TCU campus prayer vigil on Oct. 14
Remarks of friend the Rev. Erin Taylor '11
TCU Ebola information page