Fifteen days after she was diagnosed with Ebola, Amber Vinson appeared in public for the first time at a press conference marking her discharge.
“I’m so grateful to be well,” Vinson said. “First and foremost, I want to thank God. It has been God’s love that has truly carried my family and me through this difficult time.”
Vinson thanked her family, Ebola survivors Drs. Kent Brantely and Nancy Writebol – who had donated plasma to aid in her recovery, and the Emory University medical staff for treating her.
“I am so appreciative and grateful,” she said, before requesting privacy as she returns home.
Walking off the stage, Vinson stopped to hug every single one of her doctors and nurses, engaging in precisely the kind of physical connection she has been too contagious to engage in for weeks.
Re-entry into society for survivors after sometimes weeks in isolation is complicated, of course, by the country’s considerable fear and anxiety over the deadly virus. Health officials have cautioned Americans to treat medical professionals who treat Ebola patients like heroes, not pariahs, as their work to combat the virus is what got them sick in the first place.
Vinson earned national criticism for taking a commercial flight from Cleveland to Texas while she had a low-grade fever, despite the fact that it was later revealed the Centers for Disease Control signed off on her travel plans multiple times.
She was the second nurse to contract the Ebola. Another nurse, Nina Pham, also contracted disease after treating Duncan; upon learning she had become sick, Vinson made plans to return home as a precaution, her family said, and was in constant contact with the CDC to ensure her own and the public’s safety.
Pham was released two days ago and she received a warm greeting from President Barack Obama at the White House. Six days ago, Vinson’s family announced she was Ebola-free; she spent her remaining days recovering in reduced isolation.
Vinson’s departure from the hospital leaves just one American currently battling the virus in an American hospital, Doctors Without Borders’ Dr. Craig Spencer, who is currently being treated in New York’s Bellevue Hospital.
President Obama plans to make remarks to the press on Ebola developments Tuesday afternoon.