Since surviving a harrowing brush with Ebola last October, Dallas nurse Nina Pham has been plagued with nightmares, body aches and hair loss, her lawyer told ABC News. On top of that, she says people are afraid of her because they know her as "the Ebola nurse."
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Pham, 26, cared for Liberian native Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas last fall. Duncan died on Oct. 8, and Pham tested positive for the virus a few days later. She is now suing the hospital, alleging that she wasn't given the proper training or equipment to handle an Ebola case.
"The fact is, I'm facing a number of issues with regard to my health and my career and the lawsuit provides a way to address them," Pham said in a statement today. "But more importantly, it will help uncover the truth of what happened, and educate all health care providers and administrators about ways to be better prepared for the next public health emergency."
Pham's lawyer filed a petition on her behalf against the hospital today in Dallas, seeking an unspecified amount of damages for past and future pain, impairment, mental anguish and medical expenses, to name a few.
"She has not gone back to work yet, and she is working on recovering," Pham's lawyer Charla Aldous told ABC News, adding that she's also having problems with her liver enzymes. "I don't know if she'll ever be a nurse again."
Just prior to the diagnosis, Pham asked the hospital for her privacy and requested that her name not be used, Aldous said, but instead, the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital used her name, asked for quotes and released a video of her in the isolation room.
"Nina felt violated," Aldous said, because the hospital was using her likeness to drum up positive publicity.
Even when Pham's physician noted that she was unable to make her own medical decisions, the hospital asked for her to consent to releasing information about her condition to the public and "ambushed" her with a GoPro camera interview, the petition alleges. Although the hospital at one point announced that it upgraded Pham's condition to "good," her health was precarious at the time and health workers told Pham's mother her condition had not improved, according to the petition.
Now, Pham said she is known as "the Ebola nurse" wherever she goes.
"She has people that shy away from her, fearing that they could get sick from being around her," Aldous said.
The 26-year-old nurse battled Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for more than a week before she was transported to the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, for treatment on Oct. 16. She was declared virus-free on Oct. 24.
Pham has a laundry list of continuing symptoms, her lawyer said, many of which mirror post-Ebola syndrome, which can include vision loss or blindness, fatigue, aches and other symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. Pham has not reported vision loss.
Pham frequently relives her battle with Ebola in her dreams, Aldous said, but Pham is also worried about her future because she doesn't know the long-term effects of the four experimental drugs she was administered to help her fight the Ebola virus.
Nurse Amber Vinson, Pham's coworker at the hospital, also contracted Ebola and recovered. To date, she has not filed a lawsuit.
The hospital’s parent company, Texas Health Resources, released the following statement today through spokesperson Wendell Watson: "Nina Pham served very bravely during a most difficult time as we all struggled to deal with the first case of Ebola to arrive in a U.S. hospital's emergency room. Texas Health Resources has a strong culture of caring and compassion, and we view all our employees as part of our family. That's why we have continued to support Nina both during and after her illness, and it's why she is still a member of our team. As distressing as the lawsuit is to us, we remain optimistic that we can resolve this matter with Nina."