Amber Vinson, the Dallas nurse who was the second American to contract Ebola in the United States, is speaking out since being cured of the deadly disease.
Back in October, Vinson was diagnosed with Ebola after flying back to Dallas from a trip to Ohio. Vinson had previously treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, and once the world learned that she had been cleared to fly by the Centers for Disease Control, she faced intense scrutiny.
“[The criticism] has been very frustrating – people saying I shouldn't have set foot on the plane and that I put everyone at risk,” said Vinson to People Magazine in one of her first interviews since being cured of the deadly disease. “It's hurtful. I didn't have any symptoms. If these people really knew me, they wouldn't say those things.”
Vinson recently appeared on The Today Show in her first public appearance since being released and spoke to Matt Lauer about the things that were said about her by the public.
"I am not reckless, I am an ICU nurse," Vinson said. "I am all about guidelines and protocol."
Duncan, who flew to the United States from Liberia, was diagnosed in Dallas upon arriving in the United States. Not long after, Dallas nurse Nina Pham became the first American to be diagnosed with Ebola inside the country, and shortly after, Vinson also learned that she, too, had Ebola.
“I went in there and he was my patient,” said Vinson of her experience treating Duncan. “He needed my help so I did what I had to do.”
Vinson described to People Magazine how she felt when her symptoms first started to show the day after returning to Dallas from her short Ohio trip.
“I was hoping it was the flu,” said Vinson, who quickly realized that her high fever and gastrointestinal issues were not normal. “I cried, and right then and there I knew I had Ebola. Even when he [the doctor] told me I had it, it's like I didn't hear it. Because you don't want to hear that you have Ebola.”
Vinson was quickly transported to Atlanta’s Emory University where she was kept in ICU and treated aggressively.
“I got onto the plane [to Atlanta] and the entire inside was lined in plastic,” said Vinson. “It was very lonely. No one was sitting by my side even though I'm sure they weren't too far off. I was very uncomfortable.”
Vinson says it’s hard for her to remember her first few days of treatment at Emory because she had initially gotten much worse.
“I don't remember much from the days I felt awful,” said Vinson. “I didn't know if I would survive. Whenever I had those feelings, I would think of my family and pray. When I felt better, I was able to Skype with family and friends. I had a few family members that could come visit me but I could only talk to them through glass and a telephone.”
Vinson says that the entire time she was being treated, she was in constant communication with Nina Pham, and they would support each other through every test and treatment. Eventually, Pham was cured of Ebola, and shortly thereafter, Vinson, too, learned she was Ebola free. Now, she’s making every day special and realizes that it was a close call for her.
“I took in the sounds and smells and I heard crickets,” said Vinson of her first night outside of the isolation unit at Emory. “I saw the stars and felt the night wind. It just gave me a greater appreciation for things that can annoy you in life, like cricket sounds. But it's like, Wow, when you can't hear it for so many days, and you are secluded from everyone you know and love, you suddenly appreciate the crickets.”
Thomas Eric Duncan unfortunately died of Ebola, but Craig Spencer, the New York doctor who became the third American diagnosed in the country after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, is still being treated, although he is said to be doing very well.