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Who Was Thomas Eric Duncan? A Man Who Was Loved And In Love

Twitter/Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
On Tuesday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. prayed wth Thomas Eric Duncan's mother, sister and nephews.

Shortly after 10 this morning, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas made the announcement that Thomas Eric Duncan had died. 

Eleven days ago, Duncan was rushed into the hospital and put into isolation. Then, last Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed he had Ebola.

He was the first patient to be diagnosed with the disease in the United States.

Duncan had traveled to Dallas from Monrovia, the Liberian capital, to be with his girlfriend, Louise Troh, and their son.

Troh and three others were put in quarantine almost a week ago because of their contact with Duncan.

While Troh remained in isolation, discouraging news of Duncan’s battle with Ebola trickled out from the hospital. The faith community stepped into high gear. 

On Sunday, Troh couldn’t make it to Wilshire Baptist Church in East Dallas, where she was baptized in June. Senior Pastor George Mason asked worshipers to pray and show compassion.

“The church is here to remind people that no matter how something has been contracted, no matter the circumstances unfold, this is a human drama, one that could involve any of us personally,” Mason said.

Mason was helping Troh plan a wedding with Duncan, who he says goes by Eric.

“This has been in the works for several months that this was not an immediate decisions of his to come to the States,” Mason said. “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.”

Duncan and Troh had been separated from Troh for almost two decades. The New York Times reported from Liberia that the two met in the early ‘90s. It was in the midst of a brutal civil war that left 200,000 people dead, and hundreds of thousands more refugees in neighboring countries -- including Duncan and Troh.

Family members in Liberia say the two started a relationship in a refugee encampment near a border town in the Ivory Coast.

Troh's application to move to the U.S. was approved several years later. She took the couple’s then 3-year old-son, Karsiah Eric, to the U.S. Duncan’s visa applications were denied. 

Mason says the two were finally reconciling.

“They were in the process of renewing their relationship and trying to make that happen here,” Mason says.

They were together a week. But their now 19-year-old son never got to see his dad. He spoke publically for the first time on Tuesday night.

“Be strong, even though it’s hard being in the house for 21 days, not knowing what’s going to happen after she gets out,” Karsiah said. “I hope y’all keep praying that my family’s OK, and that my dad will make it out safely.”

The son, who also goes by Eric, said God was calling his dad, hoping to visit him. Hospital officials wouldn’t let him visit his father’s room at Presbyterian, where Duncan was on a ventilator and in critical condition.

Duncan was healthy three weeks ago as he was preparing to leave Monrovia for the U.S. But days before his departure, he decided to help his landlords transport their pregnant daughter to a hospital, according to The New York Times. She was sick with Ebola, and died hours later.

Although Duncan was finally able to leave Liberia, the deadly disease followed him to Dallas.

His body will be cremated so that his remains can be safely returned to his family. 

Fiancee releases statement: “His suffering is over"

After Texas Health Presbyterian notified officials that Duncan had died, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins went to visit Duncan's fiancee, Louise Troh, to share the sad news. Joining Jenkins was Troh's pastor, George Mason.

Troh released a statement about his death.

“I trust a thorough examination will take place regarding all aspects of his care,” Troh wrote. “I am now dealing with the sorrow and anger that his son was not able to see him before he died. This will take some time, but in the end, I believe in a merciful God.”

She asked people to keep her family in their prayers.

“His suffering is over,” she said. “My family is in deep sadness and grief, but we leave him in the hands of God. Our deepest sympathies go out to his father and family in Liberia and here in America. Eric was a wonderful man who showed compassion toward all. … This has dramatically changed our lives, and we will be grieving for a long time.”

Troh also thanked the Dallas community, her church and Liberian community. She also thanked Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings; Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins; and her pastor, George Mason at Wilshire Baptist Church in East Dallas.

She thanked them and others for the love and support “they have shown me and my family during this ordeal.”

“Without their help, I can’t imagine how we could have endured,” she said.

Ebola in Dallas: A timeline of main events

Hover over the right-hand side of the timeline to advance it.

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.