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Nurse in Ebola quarantine in N.J. tests negative but caught in 'nightmare'

Kaci Hickox, the first health care worker to

Kaci Hickox, the first health care worker to be placed under mandatory quarantine in Newark after caring for Ebola patients while on assignment with Doctors Without Borders in West Africa, is shown with children in Burma. Photo Credit: University of Texas

A Doctors Without Borders nurse being held in mandatory quarantine despite a preliminary test showing she does not have Ebola says she is "perfectly healthy" and expressed frustration with her treatment.

In a phone interview Saturday afternoon from an isolation tent outside University Hospital in Newark, Kaci Hickox told Newsday she's "completely asymptomatic" and officials are not communicating with her about how long she might have to remain hospitalized.

"It's been a long 24 hours for me," said Hickox, 33, a resident of Fort Kent, Maine. "I'm completely alone. No one has communicated with me so I don't have a sense of anything. No one seems to have a clear plan for what is next for me."

The nurse worked with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone before flying via Brussels to Newark. She became the first person quarantined under new orders issued by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports.

Christie's office had no immediate comment.

Hickox first described her plight Saturday in a first-person account published on The Dallas Morning News website, saying she was "scared for those who will follow" in her footsteps. She asked: "Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?"

Reached by phone, her mother, Karen Hickox, told Newsday her daughter's mission in life is to help sick people. So when Kaci got a call from Doctors Without Borders in August asking her to work a four- or five-week stint with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, Karen Hickox said she "knew in my heart she would go.

"She has a serving spirit and this is her passion," said Karen Hickox, 64, a retired teacher from Rio Vista, Texas. "When she left to go to Sierra Leone, she said, 'Mama, I get to go help people.' And that's how she feels -- she absolutely feels blessed to go help people."

Karen Hickox spoke with her daughter by phone and said her predicament is "a little bit of a nightmare."

Karen Hickox said, "There are policemen all over outside the tent."

She added, "She was very upset when she called early this morning. She was crying. I think she's a little bit frustrated. They did the blood work and she's negative for Ebola. She's not even in a room. She's in a tent -- outside in a tent. There's a little typical Porta-Potty, no shower facilities, no TV."

Doctors told her daughter she would be tested again for Ebola Monday, but they are saying little else, the concerned mother said.

"They're not telling her anything," Karen Hickox said. "We'd like to know what's happening, too."

Still, the nurse's mother said she thought public officials are doing the best they can. "I know everyone's trying to handle it to the best of their knowledge," Karen Hickox said.


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