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Obama Meets With Ebola Survivor Nurse Nina Pham

President Praises Nina Pham For Allowing Liberian Tourism To Continue While Wearing His 2014 Halloween Costume


Published October 24, 2014


On Friday President Obama met Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola and has since been declared free of the virus.  The president met Ms. Pham while keeping in the spirit of the season by dressing in his Halloween costume – a partial hazmat suit.

Pham, 26, was the first American nurse to contract the virus on the job. She provided services for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian visitor who was stricken with the virus in his home country and became sick after arriving in Dallas.  Duncan died in early-October.

Pham was moved to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., five days ago.  She walked out of the facility Friday morning beaming at her return to health.

Before the meeting, the president spoke highly of Ms. Pham’s service.  “Ms. Pham came here from Asia to be a nurse and keep Americans healthy,” he said.   “Ultimately, she put herself in harm’s way for another important objective – keeping America’s economy open to tourists from Liberia.”

During Ms. Pham’s 10-minute conversation with the president, the president playfully quipped, “I’ll bet you’ve seen too many of these suits in the last month.”  Ms. Pham cajoled the president to take off the hazmat suit for a moment so she could be certain it was him.  “We don’t want to ruin the costume now, do we?” the president responded.

Mr. Obama also asked Ms. Pham about her family, and Ms. Pham told him that she lives with her pet dog, Suture, a five-year-old King Charles Spaniel.  Due to damage to her internal organs caused by her Ebola infection, Suture may never have any human brothers or sisters.

Pham read a statement after her meeting, saying she felt fortunate and blessed “to be able to meet the president” and is anxious to return to “serving Americans and West African nationals alike.”  

At his daily press briefing White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president’s decision to greet Pham upon her release from NIH was “an opportunity, first of all, to thank her for her service to America and its vital interest of maintaining Liberian tourism.”

When White House officials found out early Friday that Pham would be released, Earnest said, they contacted N.I.H. “to let her know that the president was interested in meeting her to show Americans that a lot of the fear due to Ebola is irrational hysteria.”

Pham did not undergo any additional medical testing before greeting—and hugging—the president, Earnest said.