November 16, 2014 / 2:55 AM / 6 years ago

U.S. Ebola victim Thomas Duncan remembered at memorial in Texas

DALLAS (Reuters) - Family and friends remembered Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person in the United States to die from Ebola, at a memorial service in Dallas on Saturday.

About three dozen mourners gathered for an intimate ceremony at Wilshire Baptist Church, where Duncan’s fiancée Louise Troh, 54, is a member of the congregation.

“I’m trying to find the right words to say about my son Eric on his funeral day,” said Nowai Korkoya, Duncan’s mother, in remarks read by a grandson. “It’s hard to accept that you are no longer here Eric, my beautiful boy.” 

The service was in large part a show of support for Troh, who did not speak at the event. She was quarantined along with her 13-year-old son when Duncan died and lost nearly all of her possessions after authorities moved to decontaminate the apartment where she lived with him. Korkoya did not attend the service.

Duncan, a Liberian national who had recently arrived in the United States, first sought treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in late September, telling staff he had been in Africa.

He was sent home, but had to be brought back to the same hospital by ambulance, becoming the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the virus. He was placed in an isolation unit and died 10 days after being admitted.

Two nurses at the hospital became infected with the virus while treating Duncan but both have recovered.

Duncan’s case and the subsequent infection of the two nurses touched off a wave of Ebola fear in the United States, where Liberians and others from West African countries impacted by the disease said they were ostracized and feared for their jobs.

On Saturday, a surgeon from Sierra Leone who was critically ill with Ebola was flown to a Nebraska hospital for treatment, medical officials said.

In his closing remarks at Duncan’s memorial, Pastor George Mason told mourners that Duncan, who died Oct. 8, should not only be remembered as the face of a deadly virus.

“Eric Duncan had Ebola. Eric Duncan was not Ebola,” Pastor George Mason told mourners. “He was a person more than a patient.”

Duncan’s family said on Wednesday it had reached a settlement with the Dallas hospital that treated him and admitted to making mistakes in his care. Troh was not included in the agreement.

Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Andrew Hay

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