Thank you to the heroic nurses who did all they could to save the life of Ebola patient Mr. Duncan, at Texas Presbyterian in Dallas Texas. This 60 Minutes segment, with interview led by Scott Pelley, demonstrates the unlimited compassion and competence of the heroic nurses who valiantly tried to save Mr. Duncan's life but, sadly, the virus was already too advanced for him to recover.
Nurses who cared for Ebola patient Mr. Duncan at Texas Presbyterian in Dallas Texas
Treating Ebola: Inside the first U.S. diagnosis
The medical staff who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S., tell the inside story to Scott Pelley.
The following is a script of "Treating Ebola" which aired on Oct. 26, 2014. Scott Pelley is the correspondent. Patricia Shevlin and Gabrielle Schonder, producers.
You've heard a lot about the Dallas hospital that treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in America. But you've never heard what actually happened from the people who fought for his life at the risk of their own. You're about to meet four nurses who treated Duncan from the time he came into the emergency room, to the moment that he died. The staff had been blindsided by a biomedical emergency that burst into their ER like a wildfire. Contrary to reports that the hospital bungled the response, the story the nurses tell sounds more like a heroic effort to stop an outbreak.
On September 28, Duncan was rushed by ambulance to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. He was isolated in a separate section of the ER and nurse Sidia Rose, starting the night shift, was briefed on the special precautions required for what they now suspected was a case of Ebola.
Sidia Rose: I went over and met with a nurse who gave me a report. She also went over the protective gear that we would be wearing that night. She gave, you know, finished briefing me on what was going to happen, and I literally burst out in tears.
Scott Pelley: Why?
Sidia Rose: It's very scary. I know about Ebola, and the only reason I do, it's because I've been just researching it on my own. Since January, I kept hearing the word popping up in the news. And I just wanted to find out about it.
Richard Townsend: When our supervisor said that we had a potential Ebola case, I don't want to call it calamitous but there was a lot of concern, people became very vocal, understandably it's the boogie man virus.
Emergency room nurses Richard Townsend and Krista Schaefer made sure that Rose was suited up properly. As per the hospital's protocol, she worked with Duncan alone, with Townsend watching over her.
"I got myself together. I'd done what I needed to get myself prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically, and went in there and did what I was supposed to."
Scott Pelley: When you went to approach Mr. Duncan for the first time, what did you do? How did you prepare for that?
Sidia Rose: I gathered myself together. I put on my protective wear and I went in and introduced myself to him and you know just let him know that I would be the nurse helping him tonight.
Scott Pelley: What were you telling yourself?
Sidia Rose: I was very frightened. I was. But and I just dried my tears, rolled down my sleeves, so to speak, and went on about my night.
Scott Pelley: But why do you go in there? Why don't you say, "You know, this one's not for me"?
Sidia Rose: As a nurse, I understand the risk that I take every day I come to work and he's no different than any other patient that I've provided care for. So, I wasn't going to say, "No, I'm not going to care for him."
Scott Pelley: But you were risking your life to take care of this patient.
Sidia Rose: Oh, I know that. And that's why I, as frightened as I was, I didn't allow fear to paralyze me. I got myself together. I'd done what I needed to get myself prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically, and went in there and did what I was supposed to.
Though Duncan's test results wouldn't be known for two days, she was certain she was witnessing Ebola.
Nurse Sidia Rose: The first time when I went in and he vomited, I was standing in front of him, he was sitting on the commode, and there was just so much it went over the bag, it was on the walls, on the floors. I had two pairs of gloves on and shoe covers. And I had my face shield on. I didn't have two masks on at the time, I had just one. No, we didn't have any head covers. But I wiped down the walls, wiped down the floor with some bleach wipes.
Nurse Richard Townsend: He was having so much diarrhea and vomiting that he, you know, she was constantly having to give him the little bags that we have for people to vomit into.
Nurse Richard Townsend: All of that was hazardous waste and it had to be bagged and then double bagged and then put into a separate container that could then be disposed of later. Because anything that has any of his bodily fluids on it has the potential to be lethal to somebody else.
"And that's when he said to me his family had suffered a loss. That he had buried his daughter who had died in childbirth."
Eric Duncan was 42 years old, from Liberia, which is ground zero for this outbreak. Half of all the cases in the world are in Liberia. He flew to Dallas to visit family, became sick a few days later, and then made his first visit to the Dallas hospital.
It was the night of September 25 when Duncan first came into this emergency room. According to the hospital records, he had a temperature of 100.1. Over the course of the four hours or so that he was here, his temperature spiked to 103, but then it dropped back down. Again, according to the hospital records, he told the staff that he had come from Africa, but did not specify West Africa or Liberia. About three o'clock in the morning, with his symptoms not very severe, the staff decided to send him home with antibiotics.
But three days later he was back in the ER gravely ill and about as contagious as he would ever be. The virus is not transmitted though the air but physical contact with a single viral particle can cause infection. The hospital notified state health authorities immediately. And they wanted Nurse Sidia Rose to ask several urgent questions of Duncan.
Nurse Sidia Rose: I explained to him, "We are under the impression that you may have been exposed to Ebola. And I said, "Where are you from?" And he told me Liberia.
Nurse Sidia Rose: And I asked, "Have you been in contact with anyone who's been sick?
Scott Pelley: He said?
Nurse Sidia Rose: No. He said no.
State and federal health officials wanted to know if Duncan had been with anyone who had died in Liberia.
Nurse Sidia Rose: And that's when he said to me his family had suffered a loss. That he had buried his daughter who had died in childbirth.
But nurse Rose says Duncan told her it wasn't Ebola that killed his daughter. Rose told us that she reported this to the Texas Department of Health, but then Duncan denied his own story when he spoke to those officials.
Scott Pelley: What information was it that he denied to the health officials?
Sidia Rose: About his travels, about him burying his pregnant daughter who had died in childbirth. He denied that. He said that's not true.
Scott Pelley: So he wasn't honest with them.
Nurse Sidia Rose: Yeah.
"And we held his hand and talked to him and comforted him because his family couldn't be there."
This is nurse Richard Townsend, who dressed in the protective gear that was recommended by the CDC at the time, just as Sidia Rose did.
Scott Pelley: Was any of your skin exposed?
Sidia Rose: At that time it was just a gown that I was wearing, so yeah. Not my hands, not my legs, my face, I had my face shield on, the mask with the face shield.
Scott Pelley: So your neck was exposed?
Sidia Rose: Yes.
Scott Pelley: So the CDC protocols that you would've looked up the day he came into the emergency department was in your estimation deficient?
On September 29, Duncan was carried from the emergency department to intensive care. Nurse Nina Pham, who was involved in the transfer, would become the first person to catch the virus in the United States.
It took 48 hours to get Duncan's positive test results. And by then the hospital, on its own, had equipped the staff with suits that allowed no skin to be exposed. It would be another three weeks before the CDC made this its new standard. Then the hospital moved out all of the patients in medical intensive care and reconfigured the 24-bed unit for just one patient. It was a strange scene for ICU nurse John Mulligan.