Dallas — The fiancée of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan is struggling to recover after losing her future husband along with most of her personal belongings, and she says she is effectively homeless due to the lingering stigma of the virus.
Louise Troh has been cleared of the deadly virus for more than a week. She was quarantined in her former home during Duncan's final days then spent the remainder of a 21-day quarantine period in a cottage at a Catholic church retreat in south Dallas. She said she didn't know where she was when she first arrived. Troh, 54, is now crammed with nine other people into her daughter's modest apartment.
Except for a few plastic bins of photographs and personal items, Troh's old apartment was stripped to the carpeting and burned.
"This destroyed my whole life," she told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Members of Troh's church are trying to drum up enough money to buy a condo to rent to her in her old neighborhood. Troh says she hasn't been able to find a landlord willing to rent to her four-person household or one that her $9 per hour job in a nursing home can support.
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"I am hurt, I am displaced, I have this Ebola stigma on me and no one will take me in," she said.
She said a previous landlord, The Biltmore Apartments, cited an outstanding debt of $1,900 for denying her application — a charge Troh said was frivolous. Lisa Hawkins, the building complex's community manager, declined to comment.
The Ivy Apartments, where Duncan stayed with Troh for 10 days before his first trip to the emergency room, also denied her rental application, Troh said. A message left with The Ivy's manager was not returned.
"They are treating me like a foreigner," said Troh, who is an American citizen. "America thinks we do not deserve better."
State and federal law prohibits discrimination against buyers or renters on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability and family status.
Troh's pastor, George Mason of Wilshire Baptist Church, said buying a condo to rent to Troh is a last resort.
"When we tried to rent another condo, they turned us down when they found out who we were," Mason said.
Troh does not have an attorney, but Mason does. He said if a pending deal to buy a condo for Troh to rent falls through, filing a lawsuit will be Troh's next course of action.
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Duncan first visited the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on Sept. 26. He was sent home, only to return days later with more advanced Ebola symptoms. By October 8, he was dead.
For five days, Troh, her son, Duncan's nephew and a family friend were confined by armed guard to the apartment at The Ivy where Duncan had also stayed while his condition deteriorated but before he was hospitalized.
"Imagine, I could not visit him. I was told 'prepare for the worst.' It was horrible. You either think of killing yourself or you ask God to make you strong," Troh said.
Troh returned to church last Sunday in her first public appearance since going into quarantine. Fellow congregants donated money to help her buy clothes and have pledged to donate more to help Troh furnish a home — whenever she manages to find one.
When Duncan landed at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Sept. 16, he was realizing a long-held dream to reunite with Troh and their 19-year-old son, a college freshman at San Angelo State. In medical records Duncan's family shared with the AP, Duncan referred to Troh as his spouse, even though the two were not married.
Troh had hoped to spend the next month planning a wedding. Instead, she's planning a memorial service.