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Ebola nurse to sue Dallas hospital parent company over training, privacy concerns

Nurse Nina Pham, the first person infected with Ebola in the U.S., is suing the hospital where she contracted the deadly virus. (Video: Reuters)
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A 26-year-old nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for a patient says she plans to sue, alleging privacy issues and a failure to properly train the Texas hospital’s staff, the Dallas Morning News reports.

“I wanted to believe that they would have my back and take care of me, but they just haven’t risen to the occasion,” Nina Pham told the newspaper.

The Morning News reports that Pham on Monday will file suit against Texas Health Resources, the parent company of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. She claims that personnel at the hospital didn’t have the gear or resources to deal with Ebola and didn’t get enough instruction for care or treatment.

[The Ebola crisis]

“Nina Pham bravely served Texas Health Dallas during a most difficult time,” Texas Health Resources told the Morning News in a statement released by a spokesman. “We continue to support and wish the best for her, and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter.”

Pham last fall helped care for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, and started showing symptoms of the disease not long after Duncan passed away.

[The fear of Ebola led to slayings — and a whole village was punished]

“I was the last person besides Mr. Duncan to find out he was positive,” she told the newspaper. “You’d think the primary nurse would be the first to know. … I broke down and cried, not because I thought I had it but just because it was a big ‘whoa, this is really happening’ moment.”

Dallas nurse Nina Pham who recently recovered from an Ebola infection is reunited with her dog Bentley after testing confirmed the pet was Ebola-free. (Video: Reuters)

One day after Duncan’s death, Pham said, she was told that she wasn’t at risk, but she later found that she was running a fever of “99-point- something,” the newspaper reported. The next day, her temperature had spiked to 100.6. That’s when she went to the emergency room; she was eventually hospitalized in isolation.

Pham “broke down” in tears after test results indicated that she was suffering from Ebola, she told the Morning News.

[Patient transported from Clarendon apartment does not have Ebola]

“It was very scary,” she told the newspaper. “My time at Presbyterian is a bit blurry just because I was in and out of having to take pain medications and just being very, very, very fatigued the whole time. One of the hardest things about having Ebola was the extreme amount of fatigue.”

According to the Morning News:

Although Pham was always being watched and she talked with her family on the phone, she was lonely, she said.
“Just knowing the whole world’s watching but you’re so isolated and the people that are coming [in to care for me] are risking their lives,” Pham said. “Touching me is life-threatening. It’s very lonely.”
By the fifth day of isolation, Pham was sitting up in a chair. She thought she was doing better. But a doctor came in to talk about “end-of-life decisions” with her.

Duncan died in early October, and his family later settled with the hospital for an undisclosed amount of money. He initially sought treatment Sept. 25, five days after he arrived in Dallas from Africa. Duncan was released from the hospital, however, only to be admitted later.

“As part of the healing process, we have again extended our sincere apologies to the family and shared our regret that the diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease was not made at the time of Mr. Duncan’s initial Emergency Department visit,” Texas Presbyterian Hospital said in a statement at the time.

Before Pham left the Texas hospital for treatment at a National Institutes of Health clinical center in Maryland, she was filmed by a doctor who said the recording was educational in nature, she told the Morning News. She said she didn’t give the parent company, which had worked with a firm to create a public relations campaign in the wake of the Duncan case, her approval to give the clip to journalists.

“I could tell that they wanted me to stay just because they kind of knew, they could see I was getting better,” Pham said told the Morning News. “They wanted that ‘yes, we cured her’ kind of attitude. They wanted a win, especially after a loss.”

Even after her recovery, Pham remains concerned about how her diagnosis and treatment will affect her future, the newspaper reports.

“I feel like I’ve been less social, in a way. Every time you’re in a social setting, especially now, Ebola always comes up,” Pham told the newspaper. “It’s very hard to talk about it.”