Church squashes Ebola stigma, embraces victim's fiancée

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Pastor George Mason speaks to the media about the death of Thomas Eric Duncan from Ebola during a press conference at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, October 8, 2014. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, died Wednesday morning, a hospital spokesman said. REUTERS/Brandon Wade

DALLAS, Texas (Christian Examiner) -- Weeks before Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital which cared for Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan announced a Nov. 12 financial settlement with his family, a local Dallas church, Wilshire Baptist, partnered with the City of Dallas and private donors to help Duncan's fiancée, Louise Troh, and her family start over.

In addition to the purchase of new clothes, personal items, home goods and furniture for a new home, the City of Dallas indicated in a release that Troh, 54, would receive funds to cover six months of rent on a new lease once she found a new place to live.

But the issue of finding a home has proved to be difficult for the single mom, who lost the majority of her belongings during the decontamination of her apartment.

In an interview with NBC Dallas, Troh shared details of Duncan's hospitalization and treatment, and then revealed her struggle to move on after a 21-day-quarantine because of a public fear of Ebola.

The anguish from both the physical and emotional exposure to Ebola are evident in her testimony.

"I am hurt, I am displaced, I have this Ebola stigma on me and no one will take me in," Troh said, adding that property owners were afraid to grant her a long-term residence because of her exposure to the virus.

Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA8 reported that Wilshire church members were among the few who didn't shun Troh and her family. The congregation literally and figuratively embraced her in welcome when she attended a service after her quarantine.

Troh told the Associated Press that as she continues to try putting her life back together, she will tell her story in a memoir expected to release in April 2015.

In addition to her encounter with Ebola, the book will share the story of her journey from Liberia to America and the love she shared with Duncan that crossed continents and spanned over 10 years.

"The love of my life and the father of my son came to America to marry me," Troh said. "It was supposed to be the first happy day of a new life of joy for us all. But before we could make our new family, he died a terrible death in a quarantined room."

The announcement of her book came a day after Texas Health Resources, the parent company of the Dallas hospital which cared for Duncan during his illness, announced a financial settlement with Duncan's family. The settlement involves Duncan's parents and his four children, including his son with Troh, 19-year-old Karsiah.

The Associated Press reported the family will receive an undisclosed sum and that the Dallas hospital will create a charitable foundation in Duncan's name to help fight Ebola in Liberia. To date the virus has killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa.

The Healthcare Daily reported the family's attorney Les Weisbrod called the settlement a "very good deal" and noted that Texas law places a cap of $250,000 against physicians in malpractice cases and another $250,000 in damages against the hospital. The hospital will not charge for Duncan's medical treatment.

Duncan died Oct. 8 and is the first Ebola patient in the U.S lose his battle with the disease. Two Presbyterian nurses were infected with the virus while caring for Duncan and have fully recovered.

Dr. Martin Salia, a citizen of Sierra Leone, but a resident of Maryland, died today in Omaha , Neb., while being treated for Ebola contracted in Sierra Leone where the surgeon was working at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in the capital, Freetown. He was not assigned to Ebola cases at the hospital, and investigators are trying to track down contacts to discover what led to his infection, according to the New York Times.