'I held him in my arms': Nurses speak of heartbreak over Ebola patient's death in Dallas


Nurses who treated America's first Ebola patient have revealed the horrors and heartbreak of his final days.

Sidia Rose, John Mulligan and Richard Townshend cared for Thomas Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, in Dallas. All three admitted being scared, but said that they readily volunteered to be part of the Liberian's medical team.

Their moving account of his final days brought them to tears during interviews aired Sunday night on "60 Minutes."

"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," Rose told reporter Scott Pelley. So, I wasn't going to say, "'No, I'm not going to care for him.'

"I didn't allow fear to paralyze me," she continued. "I got myself together. I'd done what I needed to get myself prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically, and went in there."

Rose told the newsmagazine she knew Duncan had Ebola before his test results came back positive. The evidence was overwhelming.

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," she recalled.

"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," said Townsend.

Rose said Duncan changed his story multiple times depending on who he spoke to.

The gravely ill man told her he had flown from Liberia after burying his pregnant daughter, she explained.

He then denied having ever said any of those things when confronted by health officials, said Rose.

The brave nurses wore only a gown, gloves, shoe covers and a face shield when Duncan first arrived, per Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

Within days, and before the CDC required more complete protective gear, the hospital ordered full Hazmat suits for all involved.

Nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson are believed to have been exposed to the virus when Duncan was carried from the emergency room to intensive care, which had been reconfigured to hold only him.

Colleague John Mulligan, also a nurse, recalled Duncan's horrifying struggle being something he had never before come across.

"I've been in health care for nearly 20 years and I've never emptied as much trash as just from the waste of his constant diarrhea that he was having was remarkable," Mulligan told CBS.

"He was heavily sedated and he had tears running down his eyes, rolling down his face, not just normal watering from a sedated person," Mulligan continued. "This was in the form of tears."

The nurses caring for Duncan showed him the same compassion they would any other patient. They held his hand the entire time, talked to him, kept him company.

"I grabbed a tissue and I wiped his eyes and I said, 'You're going to be okay. You just get the rest that you need. Let us do the rest for you," Townsend recalled, tears beginning to stream down his face.

"Fifteen minutes later I couldn't find a pulse. And I lost him. And it was the worst day of my life," Townsend said. "This man that we cared for, that fought just as hard with us, lost his fight.

"His family couldn't be there. We were the last three people to see him alive," the devastated nurse continued. "And I was the last one to leave the room.

"I held him in my arms. He was alone."

All three spoke of the shockwaves sent through the hospital when Pham and Vinson became ill. The trio admitted they are still self-monitoring for symptoms.

"I would have nightmares, and still do, of my co-workers being infected and not being able to get to a hospital and treatment and dying," said Mulligan.

"It's like any traumatic event."

Related links:
NJ Gov. Christie frees nurse quarantined over Ebola fears
Americans' biggest fears include walking alone at night, school shootings
NY officials blast Texas while saying city is ready for Ebola patients