Ebola-Infected Dallas Nurse ID'd as Nina Pham, a 'Big Heart' Christian; Gets Blood Transfusion from Survivor

( [email protected] ) Oct 13, 2014 08:33 PM EDT
Dallas Nurse Nina Pham who contracted Ebola Virus
Nina Pham and her dog in Dallas. (Pham Family)

Nina Pham, 26, has been identified as the nurse who contracted the Ebola virus and is being treated in Dallas, a close family friend has confirmed to NBC News Monday.

Pham is the first patient to contract the disease while on U.S. soil. She was infected with the virus from an unknown "breach of protocol" in treating Thomas Eric Duncan when he returned to Texas Presbyterian Hospital a second time, according to Centers for Disease Control.

On Monday, CDC director Tom Frieden clarified the intention of his Sunday's statement that he in no way meant to place blame on the seriously-affected nurse.

"Some interpreted that as finding fault with the hospital or the health care worker, and I'm sorry if that was the impression given," he said, according to Yahoo News. "What we need to do, is all take responsibility for improving the safety of those on the front lines. I feel awful that as health care worker became infected in the care of an Ebola patient. She was there trying to help the patient survive."

"This is a very brave person who put herself at risk to do something good for society, and is not ill," he said of Pham, who has been in isolation since Friday.

Pham is a 2010 graduate of the Bachelors of Nursing program at Texas Christian University, a spokesperson for the school told NBC News. She worked as a critical care nurse at the hospital and is one of at least 50 people who cared for Duncan before he died last Wednesday.

Pham passed the Texas Board of Nursing registration exam in 2010, according to state records, but, according to NBC News, she didn't receive her certificate in Critical Care Nursing until Aug. 1 - less than two months before Duncan arrived at the hospital critically ill with Ebola.

A critical care nurse deals specifically with "life-threatening problems," and patients who are "vulnerable, unstable and complex, thereby requiring intense and vigilant nursing care," according to the website of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the body that certified Pham.

Although certified with Care Care Nursiing certificate, Pham may not have the necessary training to deal with Ebola, judging by the lack of questions on infectious disease in AACN's outline of the exam and an AACN online review course. Another area of concern is the removal of Ebola waste as biosafety experts noted that U.S. hospitals may be unprepared to properly dispose of the infectious waste produced by any Ebola virus disease patient.

Pham lives with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in an apartment complex in north Dallas. On Sunday, her Bible-study teacher told Dallas Morning News that she is a loving, highly motivated nurse who lives to care for others.

"The family is very dedicated and go out of their way to help people," Tom Ha, who taught Pham in a bible class, said. "I expect, with the big heart she has, she went beyond what she was supposed to do to help anyone in need."

Pham was in stable condition Sunday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Father Jim Khoi, Pham's pastor, says she has received a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor, according to USA Today. The identity of that survivor was unknown. Khoi said Pham is in good spirits, using Skype to communicate with her mother and asking for prayers.

Her dog, officials confirmed Monday, is also receiving special care. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has insisted that he will do what he can to save the dog. Only one week ago, the Spanish government euthanized a dog, Excalibur, belonging to a nurse who also tested positive for Ebola.

Pham's online profile indicated she attended Nolan Catholic High.

According to Dallas Morning News, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth released a statement Monday that said "its parishioners pray for the nurse that has been affected with Ebola and for her family and associates."

Hung Le, who is president and counselor at Our Lady of Fatima, said parishioners are uniting in prayer for the Vietnamese-American nurse, whom many of them have known for a long time.

"Our most important concern as a church is to help the family as they are coping with this," Le told Dallas Morning News." As a parish, we are praying for them."

Pham's family regularly attends the church on East Lancaster Avenue in East Fort Worth, friends said. But on Sunday, they didn't attend Mass, a close friend said. However, her family, known for being quiet and private, reached out to another family and asked for prayers.