Dallas Nurses Call Colleagues Who Contracted Ebola 'Heroes'

PHOTO: Several dozen nurses from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital gathered in front of the hospital to show support for their employer, Oct. 20, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. PlayChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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Nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital today hailed as "heroes" their two colleagues who contracted Ebola caring for Thomas Eric Duncan -- the Liberian national who became the first person to be diagnosed with, and die of, Ebola in the United States.

Despite criticism against the Dallas hospital for mishandling the Ebola situation in recent days, chief nursing officer Cole Edmonson said the nurses were "devastated" by Duncan's death, but nevertheless "proud" of their work. His colleague, nurse Chantea Irving, called media reports "widely inaccurate," but none of the nurses elaborated on the investigations underway to determine why Duncan was initially sent home and how the nurses contracted Ebola from him.

"The men and women of this hospital worked tirelessly to save Mr. Duncan," said emergency department nurse Julie Boling. "Some things went wrong and we’re proud to say [the hospital] owned those things."

Nurses Nina Pham, 26, and Amber Vinson, 29, were diagnosed with Ebola last week and are being cared for at the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, respectively. Both women cared for Duncan between Sept. 28 and Sept. 30, before he was isolated and when he was extremely contagious because he was vomiting and having diarrhea, officials said.

Duncan arrived at Texas Health Presbyterian on Sept. 26, but was sent home with antibiotics despite telling a nurse about having recently been in Liberia. He returned two days later in an ambulance when his symptoms worsened and was diagnosed and isolated. He died on Oct. 8.

Pham tested positive for Ebola in Dallas on Oct. 12, making her the first person to contract the deadly virus in the United States. Vinson tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 15.

Later that day, the National Nurses' Union released a statement critical of Texas Health Presbyterian's Ebola protocols. Dr. Dan Varga, the chief clinical officer of Texas Health Resources, which owns the Dallas hospital, last week told Congress that its employees never got face-to-face Ebola training.

Vinson was flown to Emory on Oct. 15, the same day she was diagnosed at Texas Health Presbyterian. Pham had initially asked to stay at the Dallas hospital where she treated Duncan and was diagnosed with Ebola, but at the hospital's request, she was flown to the NIH facility on Oct. 16.