Texas nurse Amber Vinson spoke out for the first time Tuesday, after being released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta where she completed treatment for the deadly Ebola virus that she contracted earlier this month.
The 29-year-old Dallas healthcare worker was discharged two weeks after she was admitted to the hospital with the virus. She took a moment to thank God, the hospital staff and the general public for their prayers.
"I'm so grateful to be well, and first and foremost, I want to thank God. I sincerely believe that with God all things are possible," a smiling Vinson said during a press conference at the hospital. "While the skill and dedication of the doctors, nurses and others who have taken care of me have obviously led to my recovery, it has been God's love that has truly carried my family and me through this difficult time, and has played such an important role in giving me hope and the strength to fight."
Vinson was diagnosed with Ebola, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, on Oct. 14 after having treated Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas earlier this month. He became the first Ebola victim to die on U.S. soil on Oct. 8 and Vinson is the second nurse to contract the virus after treating him.
Vinson became symptomatic on Oct. 14, one day after flying home from Cleveland to Dallas following a three-day trip with family. After undergoing intensive treatment while in quarantine, she became free of the Ebola virus on Oct. 24.
"While this is a day of celebration and gratitude, I ask that we not lose focus of the thousands of families who continue to labor under the burden of this disease in West Africa," she said. "Thank you to Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol, both of whom were successfully treated here at Emory, for your donations of plasma for me and other patients. Finally, my family and I would like to thank many people whose prayers have helped sustain us."
On Friday, her colleague Nina Pham was released from the hospital after recovering from the same disease. It is still unclear how exactly they contracted Ebola.
Vinson's diagnosis raised concerns after it was revealed that she traveled across northeast Ohio just one day prior to becoming symptomatic. She visited family in Cleveland and Akron while possibly contagious after getting approval from the CDC, and subsequently three people in Ohio remain in quarantine and 97 are still being monitored for the disease.
Dr. Bruce Ribner, medical director of the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit at Emory, applauded Vinson's "courage" and said she no longer poses any risks to the community.
"After a rigorous course of treatment and thorough testing, we have determined that Ms. Vinson has recovered from her infection with Ebola virus and that she can return to her family, to the community and to her life without any concerns about transmitting this virus to any other individuals," Ribner said. "Speaking on behalf of everyone at Emory University Hospital, 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 healthcare community, we deeply admire Ms. Vinson's courage and dedication in caring for patients with serious communicable diseases."
Ribner added that the medical staff at Emory has gained extensive knowledge about Ebola after treating Vinson, Brantley and Writebol. Among their findings is that aggressive treatment previously believed to be futile, such as ventilation and kidney dialysis, are beneficial to a patient's recovery.
The CDC was previously critical of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas for treating Duncan with the use of both a ventilator to assist his breathing and kidney dialysis in an attempt to save his life.
On Thursday, New York Doctor Craig Spencer became the ninth case of Ebola in the United States after contracting the virus while treating Ebola patients in Guinea.