Doctors, nurses and others who fought back against Ebola have been named Time’s Person of the Year for 2014. They include Kent Brantly, the Fort Worth-trained doctor who contracted Ebola in Liberia, as well as Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, the two Dallas nurses who became infected with Ebola after treating an Ebola patient.
The magazine announced the news Wednesday morning.
Time editor Nancy Gibbs writes:
“2014 is the year an outbreak turned into an epidemic, powered by the very progress that has paved roads and raised cities and lifted millions out of poverty. This time it reached crowded slums in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone; it traveled to Nigeria and Mali, to Spain, Germany and the U.S. It struck doctors and nurses in unprecedented numbers, wiping out a public-health infrastructure that was weak in the first place.”
Time credits Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the Christian relief group Samaritan’s Purse, as well as local doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams.
The death in Dallas of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed on U.S. soil, and the infection of two nurses who treated him, shook our faith in the ability of U.S. hospitals to handle this kind of disease. From there the road to full freak-out was a short one. An Ohio middle school closed because an employee had flown on the same plane as one of Duncan’s nurses. Not the same flight, just the same plane. A Texas college rejected applicants from Nigeria, since that country had some “confirmed Ebola cases.” A Maine schoolteacher had to take a three-week leave because she went to a teachers’ conference in Dallas.
Kent Brantly, the doctor trained in Fort Worth who contracted Ebola in Liberia after treating Ebola patients, is featured in the story by David von Drehle and Aryn Baker.
“Ebola is a humiliating disease that strips you of your dignity,” Brantly told Time. “You are removed from family and put into isolation where you cannot even see the faces of those caring for you due to the protective suits.”
Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, the Texas Health Presbyterian nurses who became infected with Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled from Liberia to Dallas and became sick. He was treated at Presbyterian, where he died in October.
Pham told Time: “I replay it over and over again in my head how I could have gotten infected. If I had to guess when it happened, it probably would have been in the first couple of days, when Mr. Duncan wasn’t in control of his bodily fluids, and he didn’t have catheters and tubes in place. We had to go in there and do blood sticks and deal with intimate procedures that were very high-risk.”
Vinson told Time about her reaction when she was criticized for boarding a plane after she treated Duncan: “The media was disappointing in some ways, because it promotes fear and doesn’t really get the whole story. I felt this especially in the plane coverage. I was on a plane on a Monday, and a full day later is when my first symptoms occurred. While I was on the plane, I was not sick at all. I didn’t have a temperature. All my bodily fluids were inside of my body. There was no way for anyone else to get sick on my flight to or from Ohio.”