EBOLA IN SPAIN

Nursing aide’s husband: “The hardest part is being unable to defend Teresa”

Javier Limón discusses his concerns for the future now his wife is free of the Ebola virus

Javier Limón inside his room at Carlos III Hospital in Madrid.
Javier Limón inside his room at Carlos III Hospital in Madrid.EL PAÍS

Now that Teresa Romero, the nursing aide who contracted Ebola after caring for two infected missionaries repatriated from western Africa at Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital, is out of danger, her husband is pressing ahead with legal action to “defend her honor.”

Javier Limón remains under precautionary isolation at Carlos III, on the floor below his wife, along with several other people who came into close contact with Romero during the week in which she went about her daily life while infectious. He will remain there around a week longer.

Limón answered EL PAÍS’s questions via a questionnaire. Asked what he wants from justice, he replied: “Simply for things to be done correctly, no more, no less.”

“They have attacked my wife’s honor and dignity. They attacked her in order to blame her for everything while she was half-dying,” he said in reference to remarks by Madrid health officials suggesting that Romero made a mistake while removing her protective suit after leaving an Ebola patient’s room.

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Romero herself initially told EL PAÍS in a short telephone interview that she had touched her face with a glove while removing the suit. One of her doctors said this could have been the “error” or “accident” that got her infected.

The family now claims that the nursing assistant has no recollection of this conversation or of what she told the team of doctors in the first days following her admission.

Limón said the hardest part about being in isolation was “the feeling of helplessness.”

“I couldn’t fight when they killed the dog and I couldn’t defend my wife when they said all those lies and slanderous things about her,” he adds.

The couple’s dog, Excalibur, was put down on October 8 despite Limón’s internet campaign to save it and protests by animal rights supporters outside their apartment building.

That same day, Madrid regional health chief Javier Rodríguez made public statements that Romero’s family found particularly hurtful. He accused her of lying after she failed to inform her primary care physician about her recent exposure to Ebola when she was already running a fever, and he also played down the lack of proper training and equipment for those coming into contact with the virus denounced by some health workers.

Teresa Romero pictured at home with her dog Excalibur.
Teresa Romero pictured at home with her dog Excalibur.

“You don’t need a master’s degree to teach someone how to put on or take off a suit. But some people learn faster than others,” said Rodríguez, who later issued a public apology.

Limón said he felt that a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders when he learned that his wife was clear of Ebola. “It’s the best news I’ve heard in my entire life,” he wrote.

Romero, he said, was “very happy” although he has now told her about Excalibur. The couple, who have no children, were very close to their dog, said Limón. “She is asking herself why they killed the dog, who wasn’t to blame for anything.”

The husband of Spain’s most famous patient now awaits his own hospital discharge. He has a cellphone to keep up to date with events, although he refuses to use the center’s own Wi-Fi internet service out of fear someone will trace the websites he is visiting. He also keeps the blinds almost shut to protect himself from photographers, and is afraid of returning to reality, a family spokeswoman said.

While Teresa Romero is being gradually informed of how famous she has become, Limón is perfectly aware of it and is worried.

“They have violated our privacy. Adapting to a new life where everyone is watching our every move is my biggest concern right now,” he said.

Both he and his wife are receiving psychological assistance, and Limón could not say whether they would continue to do so after they are out of the hospital.

I couldn’t defend my wife when they said all those lies and slanderous things about her”

Javier Limón

For now, the first thing he wants to do once he is discharged is to go home and see what it looks like: “Strangers have violated my privacy and I don’t know what they’ve done.”

The apartment was disinfected following the couple’s admission to hospital, but Limón has denied permission for a follow-up inspection, the media reported. Regional health authorities are telling him that they need to go back “because they say they haven’t disinfected.” But his neighbors are telling him that the job was completed the first time around.

“I believe my neighbors,” says Limón. “I don’t know the health people, and they have come at me with lies and trickery.”

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