by Ashley Naples
Last week the nephew of an Ebola victim who died accused the Dallas hospital that treated him of racism. If the allegations are true, then the loss of Thomas Duncan is even more tragic than originally thought, but the heart-wrenching story of the moments prior to Duncan’s deαth are so horrendous that they will probably do little to put his family’s mind at ease.
In addition to losing his life, medical charts seem to indicate that Duncan lost his dignity as Ebola destroyed his organs.
Duncan, who flew to Texas from Liberia, was hopeful at one point, even asking for an action movie and food. Still, his deαth was slow and painful, according to medical records.
Only a day after Duncan was admitted to the hospital, he begged hospital staff to give him a diaper because he was too exhausted to make it to the bathroom. Duncan had been projectile vοmiting and experiencing severe diαrrhea since he was admitted and didn’t have much energy.
Family members released over 1,000 pages of medical records which detail Duncan’s treatment for Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. At one point there was hope and Duncan drank Sprite and ate saltines, but his condition quickly declined.
Duncan’s organs eventually began to shut down and his heart rate slowed and then stopped beating.
Duncan wasn’t given an experimental Ebola drug until the last minute, causing his family to accuse doctors of playing favorites. According to Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks, his uncle would’ve received better treatment had he been white and wealthy.
“Had that been another name, you know, or another color, he would probably be living today and he would have survived it,” Weeks told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “And that’s what’s really hurting me the most is because they treated him the way they did because of the color of his skin, and that’s very upsetting and disturbing, and know that you stand a chance if you’re white, but you don’t if you’re black.”
Others around the country are saying that there is a racial bias on the way Ebola victims are treated. Rev. Jesse Jackson went to Dallas to speak on behalf of the family and also claimed that Duncan was not given access to the same care that white doctors received after being infected in Africa and treated in Atlanta.
However, there are some who have little sympathy for Duncan, since it is alleged by the Liberian government that he lied when asked if he’d had contact with an Ebola patient while visiting the country. Both the country of Liberia and the state of Texas had planned to prosecute Duncan for lying to airport screeners, should he have survived. Since his arrival in the country, several people have been infected, including a nurse who cared for him at the hospital.
But despite Duncan’s decision to lie to airport screeners, Slate.com gives another perspective on Duncan’s infection in Africa. They claim that he simply helped a sick neighbor get into a taxi as she was trying to get to the hospital. The fact that he claims to have touched the woman just once before infection makes the disease that much scarier.
Ebola is a disease that is terrifying for many reasons, not the least of which is that it kills gruesomely and is easily transmitted. It is also terrifying in part because it preys on caregivers and loved ones, parasitizing the humanity of those who care for and come into close contact with the ill. Duncan himself was a firsthand witness to the horrors of this disease. He briefly assisted his neighbor, a 19-year-old Ebola-infected pregnant woman, as she climbed into a taxi.
It is hard to blame someone for such a brief and noble encounter. Here is a sick young woman who needs help getting to a hospital, but who is too weak to climb into a cab on her own. There he is, standing nearby. Who would not help? Who would recoil and refuse to assist an ailing friend?
And besides, it was just a brief encounter. The opening of a door. The holding of an arm. The making comfortable.
According to Yvette Carnell at BreakingBrown.com, the situation with Duncan was ugly from the very beginning. She also says that both the CDC and Texas Presbyterian Hospital handled the serious situation with the kind of sloppiness that makes us all realize that we might be in big trouble. The picture she paints is a scary one, claiming that Duncan was vomiting everywhere both at home and on his way to the hospital, risking infection of everyone he came into contact with.
Once Duncan arrived in the U.S., he stayed with an old girlfriend and complained of feeling ill, so she took him to the hospital. After Duncan arrived at the hospital, he waited in a waiting room with other people for hours. Even though he admitted having traveled from Liberia, he was released from the hospitalwith only antibiotics. The hospital initially attempted to deny the claim that Duncan had revealed his recent travels but were eventually forced to walk that statement back. “The morning after, he was vomiting and sh*tting diarrhea all over a one-bedroom flat occupied by five people, and his host’s daughter called the ambulance,”reports Guy Rundle.
At BlackInsuranceNews.com, Yolanda Spivey says that many hospitals around the country are ill-prepared for Ebola patients to come through their doors. She also says that it was a likely breach in protocol that led to the infection of the nurse who took care of Duncan at the hospital. So, it appears that health care officials aren’t prepared, the country isn’t prepared and the CDC isn’t prepared. This could be a difficult crisis to manage.