Columbia man shares connection with Ebola survivor

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COLUMBIA - As the first healthcare worker diagnosed with Ebola in the United States recovers at home with her family, a Columbia man shared his connection to Nina Pham. 

Columbia resident Victor Tran was watching CNN when the news hit close to home.

"Within the span of 30 seconds, I went from not knowing who this person was, to knowing it's someone I've seen and interacted with back home, which is pretty crazy," he said.

Pham and fellow nurse Amber Vinson are believed to have contracted the virus while treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died from the disease Oct. 8.

Tran, 24, and Pham, 26, attended Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, Texas at the same time. Their families also go to neighboring Catholic churches.

"The Vietnamese Catholic community out there is really closeknit," Tran said. "Our churches took a trip to Europe when we were kids, and our parents are casual friends, so we went together. I graduated with her little sister, too, and I remember seeing her around in high school."

Tran's family in Texas kept him updated on community support of the family while Pham was at Texas Presbyterian, thereafter being transferred to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

"They did prayer services for her, they helped out her family, and were very supportive. Whatever they needed, people were there. It was really cool to see everyone come together," Tran said.

He said he felt the media expressed slight surprise when covering the outpouring of concern that overwhelmed the Pham family. But Tran said he would expect that from any Vietnamese community in the U.S.

"I think a lot of closeness stems from being a group of refugees that are far away from their homeland and finding that comfort in a group of people that share your traditions, your language. We just tend to cling together."

Pham spoke during a news conference Oct. 24 after being discharged from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Tran watched her live on television while on the phone with his parents.

"She's a pretty integral member of the Vietnamese Catholic community down there, so people were getting pretty excited that she was getting better and coming home."

Pham is now ebola-free and home with her family in Fort Worth, Texas.