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For One Dallas Church, Ebola Becomes Personal As A Member Is Quarantined

Lauren Silverman
At Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, there were prayers for Thomas Duncan, the Dallas Ebola patient. His girlfriend, who's under quarantine, attends Wilshire.

The man being treated for Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas is in critical condition. On Sunday, the health officials said his condition took a turn for the worse. Meanwhile, the North Texas faith community has been praying for him and his family.

For many who worship at Wilshire Baptist Church in East Dallas, Ebola has become personal. One of their members, Louise Troh, is the girlfriend of Thomas Eric Duncan -- the man who’s being treated for Ebola. She’s been in quarantine for nearly a week.

Senior Pastor George Mason says Duncan left Liberia and planned to reunite and marry Troh in Dallas.

“This has been in the works for several months -- this was not an immediate decision of his to come to the States,” Mason told KERA. “He had been waiting for a visa and it came through. Of course, he became symptomatic before we could make a plan for the wedding.”

Mason says Troh was looking forward to starting a life with Duncan, after reconciling with him following a separation.

“These are people with hopes and dreams,” he said. “Relationships of all kinds have been put on hold now as their life is hanging in the balance.”

Congregants heard their pastor’s call for compassion Sunday morning.

After the morning service, people gathered around a small table to write notes of encouragement to Troh and her family. Jackson Mihm, who’s 17, gently placed his in the basket.

“I feel a connection to the family and how they’re suffering through this terrible time,” Mihm said.

Across North Texas, people prayed for Duncan and his family, as well as people in West Africa battling Ebola.

In a Sunday press conference, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins reinforced the message of compassion and thanked the faith leader who provided a home in North Dallas for Troh, her son, and two nephews.

“I want to thank he faith community for stepping up, for all the faith leaders in times of crisis,” Jenkins said.

On Friday, officials moved the family from the apartment in Vickery Meadow where Duncan became ill. The rooms are now being decontaminated. Jenkins said the family is being closely monitored for any symptoms of the disease.

“Their medical monitoring is excellent and we’re doing everything that needs to be done that would be done in a hospital, which just consists essentially of checking their temperature and their vitals twice a day,” Jenkins said Sunday.

Health officials are currently monitoring nearly 50 people, about 10 of whom are currently considered  “high risk.”

Over the weekend, a new challenge emerged when authorities in Dallas identified a homeless man who might have had contact with Duncan. The man went missing.  After a search lasting several hours, he’s now among those being monitored for any signs of the disease.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.