Recovered US Ebola patients meet for first time, say they are grateful to be alive

Dr Kent Brantly, left, one of the survivors of the Ebola virus interviewed for NBC.(Photo: Samaritan's Purse)

Six of the nine Ebola patients treated in the United States in recent months met for the first time on Wednesday, saying their ordeals fighting the virus have not dampened their desire to help others and that they are grateful to be alive.

Speaking together in an interview on NBC's "Today" show, they said while they have experienced some stigma following their treatments, they also have seen many acts of kindness.

"There's been a mix, there's been a lot of scrutiny," said Dr Rick Sacra, who was infected while working with a Christian missionary group in Liberia. "Some of it's positive, but there's a lot of criticism on social media and the stuff that you see."

All six said their experiences in facing Ebola would not stop them from treating other patients with the disease or even returning to West Africa, where more than 5,400 people have died at the center of the outbreak.

"I'd still do it," Dallas nurse Amber Vinson said.

Sacra and Vinson spoke alongside four others who contracted the virus and were treated in the United States: missionaries Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol; another Dallas nurse, Nina Pham; and NBC freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo.

"I'm thankful for my health, for a second chance at life," Pham said in the interview, a day before the Thanksgiving holiday.

"It's also important to recognize how lucky we are for getting the kind of treatment that we got," Mukpo said, adding that many victims in West Africa "didn't have the benefit of what we had."

The circumstances under which the survivors contracted Ebola varied. Some were working in West Africa and were flown back to US hospitals. The two nurses helped treat Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, who was diagnosed after flying to Texas and died there in October.

The other US death was Dr Martin Salia, a Sierra Leone native and a permanent US resident who was gravely ill when he was flown from his home country to Omaha, Nebraska, for treatment.

Dr Craig Spencer of New York, who recovered after being infected in West Africa, did not attend the gathering.

The meeting also gave four of the survivors a chance to thank Brantly in person for donating his plasma to help treat them when they were sick, although it is unknown if the donation or other interventions were behind their recoveries.

Writebol also donated plasma to Spencer, according to NBC.