Thursday was a day of tears and rage for Teresa Romero, the Spanish nursing assistant who became the first Ebola transmission case outside Africa.
The first cause for anger is her dog, Excalibur, which was put down while she remained in intensive care at Carlos III Hospital in Madrid. Romero found out what had happened several days ago from her husband, Javier Limón, who was himself kept in isolation for 21 days because of the risk that he might have contracted the virus through contact with her.
Romero remains isolated at the hospital despite being officially free of Ebola after a second blood test came in negative for the virus. But one last test is being conducted before she is transferred to an ordinary ward to recover from the damage wrought by the virus, especially to her lungs.
Sitting inside the office of the couple’s lawyer, José María Garzón – who is preparing legal action over alleged omissions and mistakes that may have led to the situation — Limón calls his wife from his cellphone and puts her on speakerphone.
Doctors on temp contracts
Four out of the five doctors – six, including the head of the infectious disease department – who have been treating Teresa Romero lack a permanent position at Carlos III Hospital and have been renewing their temporary contracts for years.
All four, who are aged between 33 and 40, have spent anywhere between four and nine years signing contracts with a duration of 12 months at the most, although on one occasion the specified term was just one month.
This team also treated two Spanish missionaries who were repatriated from Africa after contracting Ebola there. It was while cleaning the room of the second patient that Romero is thought to have contracted the virus herself.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m tired, my shoulders hurt.”
“But that’s probably from being in bed, practically without moving.”
Teresa is feeling much better, and this is reflected in her voice, which changes in tone depending on the subject matter. She is overjoyed at the prospect of being discharged soon, but scared about walking through her front door and not finding her dog there to greet her, like he used to do.
“I don’t want any interviews, what I need is my dog!” she replies when Limón tells her that EL PAÍS would like to chat with her.
“I just want them to give me back my dog!” she is heard screaming. “What have they done to my dog, those sons of...? Why did they kill him?”
Limón, who has lost five kilograms this past month, gets emotional as he listens to her. He launched an online campaign to save the dog while in hospital himself, which brought protesters to the door of the couple’s apartment building in Alcorcón. But authorities obtained a court order to go ahead with the destruction of the pet on the grounds of public safety, two days after both Romero and Limón were admitted to Carlos III.
Both husband and wife are very hurt about that decision.
“There were many options before sacrificing him, such as putting him under observation,” says Limón. “When they came for me I said goodbye to Excalibur and I touched his mouth, lips, eyes, everything... and here I am, without any virus. So why should he have had it?”