BETHESDA – Nina Pham, 26, the first Dallas nurse to contract Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, was transferred from Dallas to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda in good condition Thursday. The decision to transfer her was made by Pham and her family.
“I’m so thankful for the outpouring of love and support from friends and family, my coworkers and complete strangers. I feel very blessed, and have gained strength from their support. I appreciate everything that my coworkers have done to care for me at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. I’m doing really well thanks to this team, which is the best in the world. I believe in my talented coworkers,” Pham said in a statement released by the hospital on the Facebook page Oct. 16.
Pham is one of two nurses who cared for Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Officials say Duncan contracted the virus while transporting an infected person in Liberia. Duncan died on Oct. 8. Pham was diagnosed on Oct. 11 and has since received a blood donation from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly.
“It was a difficult decision to transfer Nina, a member of our own family and someone who is greatly loved and respected,” said Dr. Gary Weinstein, chief of pulmonology and critical care medicine at Texas. “We’re so glad she has improved so much in such a short amount of time. Our prayers are with her, and she’ll be in wonderful hands at NIH.”
Amber Vinson, 29, is the other nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for Duncan. She was transferred to Emory Hospital in Atlanta on Wednesday where two other patients were treated for Ebola. The Emory and NIH units are two of the four facilities in the United States that are specially equipped to handle Ebola. Officials from the CDC say Vinson may have put as many as 135 people in danger when she flew from Dallas to Akron, Ohio to plan her upcoming wedding. Officials say Vinson inserted catheters, drew blood, and directly dealt with Duncan’s body fluids.
Hospital officials said nurses followed the CDC protocol, stating when Duncan returned the hospital he was placed in isolation and the staff wore protective gear that was recommended by the CDC. Officials also said none of Duncan’s specimens or fluids leaked while they were being taken or transmitted. The hospital does admit fluids were taken at least once using improper protocol, but officials said afterward the samples were triple-bagged and placed in a closed transport container. The hospital also admits some of the nurses may have been too small for the CDC protective gear and may have used tape to fit the suits to size.
According to an employee satisfaction survey by Press Ganey, Texas Health Dallas is in the top 1 percent in the country when it comes to employee engagement and partnership. We support the tireless and selfless dedication of our nurses and physicians, and we hope these facts clarify inaccuracies recently reported in the media.
Officials from the Center for Disease Control estimate up to 100 people may have had contact with people who had contact with Duncan after he showed symptoms with 50 low-risk contacts and 10 high-risk contacts including close family members and three ambulance workers being monitored for symptoms by the agency.