Attorney Says Dallas Ebola Survivor Seeks Transparency In Lawsuit Against Hospital | KERA News

Attorney Says Dallas Ebola Survivor Seeks Transparency In Lawsuit Against Hospital

Mar 3, 2015

A nurse who contracted Ebola last year at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas has filed a lawsuit against her employer, Texas Health Resources.

Nina Pham says it will uncover the truth about what happened, according to a statement released by her attorney.  

Like a lot of people, attorney Charla Aldous watched closely, back in October, the images of a young Dallas nurse with Ebola, boarding a small plane at Love Field.

The 26-year-old critical care worker was off to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, uncertain of her fate. She recovered -- a month later, she contacted Aldous.   

“'Nina Pham is calling for you,'” Aldous recalls being told. “And I was like, 'Nina Pham? It has to be the Nina Pham.'"

Aldous called Pham back, and soon got an earful about Texas Health Resources.  

Filing lawsuit not an easy decision, lawyer says 

“Everything that I’ve read, from Texas Health Resources, including their testimony to Congress, was that their employees had been appropriately trained,” Aldous said. “But I can tell you, when I read them, and I heard what Nina had to tell me, it was the difference between daylight and dark.”  

Aldous started visiting Pham a lot. They had long conversations about what Pham says was lack of training on Ebola, about how nurses were improvising with protective gear, and how Pham says she didn’t give the hospital approval to release a video seen widely online and on TV. Pham apparently thought it was only for nurses or training purposes.

“From day one, Nina has told me ‘I will never feel right it until they tell the truth.’ And when it became apparent to us that filing a lawsuit was the only way to make that happen, that’s when she decided to move forward. It wasn’t an easy decision,” she said.

Texas Health Resources spokesman Wendell Watson would not address specific allegations, but he says the hospital continues to support Nina Pham.

'Nina served bravely,' hospital says

“Nina served bravely during a most difficult time,” he said. “As distressing as the lawsuit is to us, we remain optimistic that we can resolve this matter with Nina.”

In a story published over the weekend, Nina Pham told The Dallas Morning News reporter Jennifer Emily about life after Ebola.   

“When you first meet her, she doesn’t look like she’s sick,” Emily said. “She is losing her hair, but it’s not obvious when you first look at her.”

Emily says Pham is a quiet person, shy, and polite. It seemed hard for her to share her story, especially when talking about the patient she treated at Texas Health Presbyterian. Thomas Eric Duncan was the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. He died in October.  

“No-one knew for certain, they had to wait on the lab tests,” Emily said. “So the moment she found out, she said she was very scared. ... She broke down crying.”

And now, Pham says she has nightmares, physical aches and pains, liver problems. She’s frightened about her future, Emily says.

An uncertain future

“She doesn’t know what the future holds for her health,” she said. “What is it like to survive Ebola? What will the future look like next year. … Should she have children?”

Pham told Emily she wants to take a stand for nurses, too -- to send the message that hospitals should listen more to healthcare workers, and their needs. Even today, some people are afraid to touch her hands.  

“When I walked in, I shook her hand,” Emily said. “And it was only after I shook her hand, and sitting down, I thought, you know, some people are afraid to do that. And it’s a little mind-boggling, she’s not going to give you Ebola.”

According to the lawsuit filed, Pham is seeking unspecified damages for physical pain and mental anguish, medical expenses and loss of future earnings.