"All we could do is sit and wonder, 'Are we going to die today,' " recalls Louise Troh

By Johnny Dodd
April 27, 2015 07:25 PM
Vanessa Gavalya

Dallas resident Louise Troh is breaking her silence on the death of her fiancé Thomas Eric Duncan – the first person to die of the Ebola virus in America on Oct. 8, 2014.

“I don’t like thinking about it,” Troh, 55, tells PEOPLE of the events that unfolded after Duncan arrived from Liberia to plan their wedding and, 10 days later, died of Ebola. “Just talking about it brings everything all back. It was all too much for me, for all of us.”

Troh’s journey, chronicled in her new memoir My Spirit Took You In, details how she and her 13-year-old son – along with Duncan’s nephew and a family friend – were forced into quarantine in her tiny apartment, which she shared with Duncan, 42, during his stay.

“It was heartbreaking,” recalls Troh, who spent 21 days in the apartment and was prevented from stepping outside by armed guards while countless onlookers and the media surrounded her complex. All we could do was sit in there and wonder, ‘What is going to become of us? Are we going to die today?’ ”

Thomas Eric Duncan
Wilmot Chayee/AP

While quarantined, Troh, who emigrated from Liberia 16 years ago and is now a nurse’s assistant at a nursing home, manically scrubbed her apartment with disinfectant.

“Because of my job, I’ve always cleaned my home every day with Clorox, Mean Green and Lysol,” she says. “When we were quarantined, I kept disinfecting all the rooms so much that one day my son cried, ‘My eyes are burning, my eyes are burning,’ so I had to stop.”

Workers in hazmat suits stripped the apartment of nearly all of Troh’s belongings – except for the carpet, her Bible and a few documents – and destroyed everything.

All Troh could do was sit inside and listen as “people said all sorts of terrible things about me – how I knew that Thomas was sick with Ebola before he came here. It was heartbreaking to hear that. I never would have put my son in harm’s way for anyone.”

Troh says she spent a lot of time praying and was allowed a few brief cellphone conversations with Duncan, who was “so very scared” in the hospital.

No one in Troh’s apartment became infected with Ebola, although two nurses who treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital contracted the virus, but later recovered.

Still reeling after her fiancé’s death, Troh says she’s haunted by the misconception that Duncan knew he had the virus before he got on the plane for America.

“I no longer sleep at night. It’s like I live in another world,” she says. “He would never have come here if he knew he was sick. He had no idea. He was such a gentle, loving and responsible man. He was someone’s father, someone’s brother. He was not a criminal.”