Thomas Eric Duncan, the first and so far only person to die of Ebola in the U.S., was remembered Saturday at memorial service in North Carolina as a compassionate and selfless man. Mourners celebrated the 42-year-old’s life at Rowan International Church in Salisbury, where his sister, mother and nephew worship, according to local NBC affiliate WCNC.
After the service, Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks, said his uncle “cared for everybody, he didn’t care who you were,” adding that he “cared to his own detriment sometimes.” Weeks, who grew up with Duncan but hasn’t seen him in years, said the two were like brothers. “I was looking forward to him coming here and us doing things together,” Weeks said. “Unfortunately that is never going to happen.”
Duncan died in Dallas on Oct. 8, exactly two weeks after he started showing symptoms of the virus. After an initial visit to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Sept. 25, he was sent home, despite having a fever of 103 degrees and a recent travel history from Liberia. He returned to the hospital two days later, at which point he was admitted to the hospital and placed under isolation.
Forty-eight people who had contact with Duncan in Dallas, including his fiancée, Louise Troh, are being monitored for symptoms themselves. Most of them are expected to pass through a 21-day monitoring period by Sunday evening. Family members who were able to attend the memorial service said Duncan was always focused on helping others and they wiped away tears while a slideshow featuring Duncan was displayed, WCNC reported. Duncan’s remains were cremated in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Another memorial service will be held for Duncan when Troh is out of isolation, which is expected to happen by midnight Sunday.
More than 70 healthcare workers and other staff members at the Dallas hospital where Duncan was treated are also being monitored for symptoms. Medical records show that the hospital did not initially take proper precautions–including failing to use personal protective equipment–which could have potentially exposed workers who cared for Duncan, as well as lab employees and others, to the deadly virus. However, none of those being monitored has reported any symptoms at this point.
On Sunday, Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan took out a full page newspaper advertisement to apologize again for the company’s handling of the Ebola outbreak in Dallas. In the advertisement printed in Sunday’s editions of the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Mr. Berdan says the staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital are ‘devastated’ and ‘deeply sorry’ that they weren’t able to save Duncan’s life.
Duncan was in the U.S. visiting family and preparing for his wedding to Troh when he fell ill at his family’s Dallas apartment. While most of the country knows him as Ebola ‘patient zero,’ members of the Rowan International Church, a southern Baptist congregation of mostly Liberian immigrants, remember the 42-year-old as a kindhearted, selfless man with big dreams for his future. For them, Duncan’s death marks another milestone in months of sadness as they’ve watched the gruesome disease overtake several thousand people in their country.