The nurse who beat Ebola is getting back to normal life

Posted at 12:46 PM, Oct 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-24 12:46:35-04

(CNN) — She beat Ebola. Now she’s eager to get back to normal — and reunite with her dog, Bentley.

Nina Pham addressed reporters Friday at the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, after doctors announced that she was free of the Ebola virus.

“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today,” she said. “Throughout this ordeal, I have put my faith in God and my medical team.”

She said she believes in the power of prayer and thanked people around the world who have prayed for her.

Pham strode to a bank of microphones moments after the NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci said she was free of the virus.

Looking composed, the nurse thanked Dr. Kent Brantly, the American physician who also survived Ebola, for donating his plasma to her while she was sick.

A ‘stressful and challenging’ time

Pham, who grew up in a Vietnamese family in Fort Worth, Texas, graduated with a nursing degree in 2010 and just months ago received a certification in critical care nursing, which deals with life-threatening problems.

She said Friday that she looks forward to resuming a normal life and seeing her dog, Bentley, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who has been held in quarantine — just in case — back in Texas. She said she’s been through a “very stressful and challenging” time and asked for privacy.

Pham was among the doctors and nurses in Dallas who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. His diagnosis came after he returned from a trip to West Africa, and he died on October 8.

Three days later, Pham tested positive for the Ebola virus, becoming the first person in the United States to contract Ebola on American soil. That sent waves of anxiety through the network of health care workers — and beyond.

Those anxieties deepened on October 15, when a second nurse in Dallas, Amber Vinson, tested positive for Ebola. Vinson had flown from Dallas to Cleveland and back, prompting an airline to warn passengers on both legs of her trip as well as passengers who took subsequent flights on that aircraft. Some schools closed. Health departments monitored dozens of people.

None of them has tested positive for Ebola.

Pham said Friday that her thoughts are with Vinson, who is getting treatment for Ebola at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital.

Vinson is steadily regaining her strength, and her spirits are high, her family has said. Doctors can no longer detect the virus in her body, but they have not yet determined when she will be discharged, the hospital in Atlanta said Friday.