Here's another excerpt from yesterday's long story in The Dallas Morning News: Exclusive: Nurse Nina Pham after Ebola: Terrible side effects, lawsuit against employer. Turning a sick employee's situation into a PR opportunity seems especially obnoxious:
The day after Duncan died, Pham said she met with someone from the CDC and the hospital’s employee health manager to walk through her care of Duncan and how she protected herself.
“They deemed me no risk,” she said.
She went home and later had a fever of “99-point- something,” about 2 degrees above her normal temperature. Pham said she called the hospital and the Dallas County health department, and was told to monitor her temperature. But unless her temperature reached 100.4, they told her, she should not be concerned. Attorney Charla Aldous, who is representing Pham, says that Texas Health Resources “used Pham as a PR pawn.”
She woke up early Oct. 10 with a temperature of 100.6. Pham said she called the Presbyterian emergency room and told them who she was and that she was coming to the hospital. She drove to the hospital, where she was put in isolation. Her boyfriend at the time was quarantined but remained Ebola-free. They stopped seeing each other soon after, and Pham is currently not dating anyone.
When she was admitted to Presbyterian, Pham said, she made it clear that she did not want any information released about her medical condition.
“I wanted to protect my privacy, and I asked several times ... to put be as ‘no info’ or at least change my name to Jane Doe,” Pham said. “I don’t think that ever happened.”
When a test confirmed that she did have Ebola, “I broke down crying” and was in disbelief.
“It was very scary,” she said. “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.”
Pham said she received three experimental drugs and “one glimmer of hope” when she found out that Brantly could give her plasma. Brantly, a doctor from Fort Worth, contracted Ebola in July while treating patients in Liberia. The plasma of Ebola survivors is helpful in the treatment of others fighting the disease.
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.
The day Pham was transferred to NIH, a notation was made in her medical file that “she does not have the mental capability to make end-of-life decisions,” Aldous said. But PR people from Texas Health were trying to talk to her for a media release “about how much she loves Presbyterian,” Aldous said.
Texas Health, with a PR firm’s help, developed a slogan — “Presby Proud” — aimed at restoring the community’s faith in the beleaguered hospital.
Before Pham’s flight to Maryland on Oct. 16, she said, a doctor wearing a video camera under his protective hood came into her room and said he was filming her for educational purposes. Pham said she did not give permission for the video, which was released to the media.
“Thanks for getting well. Thanks for being part of the volunteer team to take care of our first patient,” a man’s voice said in the video. “It means a lot. This has been a huge effort by all of you guys.”
Pham, still lying in her Dallas hospital bed, got teary-eyed and said, “Come to Maryland, everybody.”
This could be one of the biggest occupational health and safety cases the American public health has ever seen, with repercussions worldwide.