2nd Dallas nurse comes home, Ebola-free: ‘I am so grateful to be well’

  /Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Amber Vinson was greeted by a colleague as she arrived Tuesday at Dallas Love Field. Vinson was one of two nurses who contracted Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan.
1 of 2 Next Image

An upbeat Amber Vinson thanked God, her family and the health workers who treated her as doctors announced the Dallas nurse’s discharge Tuesday from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where she’d been treated for the Ebola virus since Oct. 15.

“I am so grateful to be well,” Vinson said, beaming as she embraced the hospital officials and staff present for her prepared statement. “While this is a day for celebration and gratitude, I ask that we not lose focus on the thousands of families who continue to labor under the burden of this disease in West Africa.”

She returned to Dallas about 5 p.m. Tuesday, and will be staying at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas with her mother and fiancé, who will remain in isolation there for a few more days as they are monitored for possible Ebola symptoms, KXAS-TV (NBC5) reported.

Vinson’s release was announced by Bruce Ribner, director of Emory Hospital’s Serious Communicable Diseases Unit, in a news conference. She did not take questions and asked that her family’s privacy be respected.

“After a rigorous course of treatment and thorough testing, we have determined that Ms. Vinson has recovered from the Ebola virus and can return to her family without any concern about transmitting the virus to any other person,” Ribner said.

Vinson was declared Ebola-free on Friday, the same day her colleague Nina Pham was released from isolation at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Maryland. Vinson even got a call from President Barack Obama, who on Tuesday urged Americans to support U.S. health care workers helping to fight the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

Ribner praised the American health care system for its response to the crisis and thanked the staff of Presbyterian Hospital, where Vinson works, for its role in her initial care.

“We have been privileged to care for one of the members of their team,” he said. “We are pleased with Ms. Vinson’s recovery and grateful for our opportunity to apply our training toward meeting her medical needs.”

Both Vinson and Pham recovered quickly from the disease, a welcome surprise that hospital officials could not definitively explain. Ribner said the nurses’ ages — both are in their 20s — may have played a role. “We know from a lot of data in Africa that younger patients tend to do better,” he said.

Vinson was also wearing protective equipment when she treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian who became the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., “so it’s possible that the amount of virus she was exposed to was less,” he said.

Vinson had been in isolation at the Atlanta hospital after being transferred by air ambulance from Dallas. Her case, the third Ebola diagnosis in the U.S., caused a panic when she traveled on a commercial flight from Cleveland to Dallas after she first developed a low-grade fever. She cleared the trip with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but officials have said that was a mistake.

Once in Dallas, she was rushed into an isolation unit at Presbyterian, where her treatment began.

Ribner recognized that public fears about the deadly virus continue.

“It’s critically important that we reassure the American people that we are taking measures to prevent future exposure,” he said. “But the thing we really have to keep in mind is that the only way we are truly going to keep citizens safe is to control the outbreak in Africa.”

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins called Vinson’s return to Dallas “an important milestone” in the county’s fight against Ebola.

“I’m thrilled for Amber, her mother Debra, fiancé Derrick, and all those who love and have been praying for this ‘hometown health care hero,’” he said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “She returns to us Ebola-free and I know her big smile and strong spirit will serve as a huge boost to the staff of Presbyterian Hospital and to all of North Texas.”

Mayor Mike Rawlings concurred in a statement of his own.

“I join everyone in Dallas in welcoming Amber back to the community and thanking her for her dedication and brave devotion as a nurse,” he said. “Amber is a true hero, and I hope she’s able to return to a normal and happy life as soon as possible.”

Staff writer Matt Peterson contributed to this report.

Top Picks
To post a comment, log into your chosen social network and then add your comment below. Your comments are subject to our Terms of Service and the privacy policy and terms of service of your social network. If you do not want to comment with a social network, please consider writing a letter to the editor.
Copyright 2011 The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserve. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.