FORT WORTH (AP) — As her boyfriend Thomas Eric Duncan lay dying of Ebola in a Dallas hospital bed, Louise Troh battled loneliness and fear that she too had contracted the disease while confined to a stranger’s home under armed guard.
Troh’s confinement was ending Sunday night, along with several friends, family and others who had contact with Duncan after he first became infectious. Ebola has a 21-day incubation period, and the people who interacted with Duncan after he first arrived in Dallas from Liberia will be in the clear.
It’s an important milestone in the nation’s efforts to contain the outbreak and a cause for celebration for Troh. After three long weeks, she will be able to have a clean bill of health, leave the house and be done with twice-daily temperature readings by government health care workers. She likened the period to being a prisoner.
“I want to breathe, I want to really grieve, I want privacy with my family,” Troh told The Associated Press on Friday, lamenting that she was missing Duncan’s memorial service at his mother’s church in North Carolina because of the quarantine. Troh says she and Duncan planned to get married later in the week.
Duncan arrived in Dallas from Liberia in late September and went to the hospital complaining of headache and stomach pain. He was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics to treat a misdiagnosed sinus infection. He returned two days later, was diagnosed with Ebola and died Oct. 8.
The day Duncan tested positive for Ebola, Troh, her 13-year-old son, Duncan’s nephew and a family friend were ordered by a Dallas court to stay inside the apartment among Duncan’s used linens and any lingering virus. The unusual confinement order was imposed after the family failed to comply with a request not to leave the apartment, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. The four were later taken to an undisclosed gated community.
Jenkins and Troh’s pastor George Mason delivered the news of Duncan’s death to her during the confinement period.
The other people who will have their quarantine period end at midnight include Youngor Jallah, Troh’s daughter, a nurse’s assistant who checked Duncan’s vital signs before calling for an ambulance.
For nearly three weeks, Jallah has not left the cramped, second-story apartment she shares with her partner, Aaron Yah, their three children, ages 2, 4 and 6, and Yah’s 10-year-old son.
Unlike Troh, Jallah is not prevented from leaving by an armed guard, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have come by daily to check everyone’s temperature.
“I’m telling you, just to step outside will be so great. To hug my mom and grieve for Eric, not over the phone like we’ve been doing but in the flesh,” Jallah said.
Mason said he is coordinating efforts with the city, county and philanthropic community to help Troh and the family recover. Because of the Ebola infection risk, crews stripped Troh’s apartment down to the carpeting, saving only a few personal documents, photographs and a Bible.
“They were left with nothing. They are completely devastated by this, so there’s need to have their lives rebuilt,” Mason said.
Troh plans to partially recover financially with a book written about her life, from growing up in Liberia, meeting Duncan in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast, Duncan’s years-long quest to come to America to be reunited with his girlfriend and their 19-year-old son, and his death in an isolation ward.
“It will be a love story,” she said.
At Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas on Sunday, associate pastor Mark Wingfield said the congregation was eager to welcome Troh back.
“We look forward to welcoming Louise and her family members back to church after the quarantine is lifted and we want you to know that when that happens we will be glad to receive each one of them,” he said.
Saturday evening Louise Troh released a statement about the ending of her confinement:
“Tomorrow, my family and I will complete the 21-day quarantine period we were required to undergo because of the Ebola virus in Dallas. We are so happy this is coming to an end, and we are so grateful that none of us has shown any sign of illness.
Our happiness is mixed with sadness at the same time. My beloved fiancée, Thomas Eric Duncan, who was also the father of my son, Karsiah Eric Duncan, did not survive with us. We continue to mourn his loss and grieve the circumstances that led to his death, just at the time we thought we were facing a happy future together. Our hearts also go out to the two brave women who have been infected by this terrible disease as they were trying to help him. We are also aware of how much this has affected many other people of my city, Dallas, and my country, the United States of America, even as it has in the country of my birth, Liberia. We also know that many people who work in Presbyterian Hospital are hurting because of this tragedy. We pray that God will bring healing to all in our community soon.
We thank all people of kindness who have prayed for us during this time, and we join your prayers now for others who are suffering too. We have lost so much, but we have our lives and we have our faith in God, which always gives us hope.
Even though the quarantine is over, our time of mourning is not over. Because of that, we ask to be given privacy as we seek to rebuild our home, our family and our daily living. We will not give any interviews at this time. I do have a story to tell, and I look forward to telling it in my own way at the right time.
At this time, I would like to give my thanks to Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins for all the help and kindness they have shown me in the last three weeks. These two men have cared about me as a person. The many people who work with and for them, and also the state health workers who have cared for us, have been angels from God who have kept our spirits up through all of this. And of course I want to thank all my family, the Liberian community, and my friends at Wilshire Baptist Church. I look forward to seeing you all soon.
All glory be to God.”
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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