When Ebola strikes the elderly: The case of an 87-year-old who rode the wrong ambulance

An 87-year-old woman from Madrid, Spain, had to be isolated in the senior center where she lives after she became one of the few patients to be driven on the same ambulance as nurse Teresa Romero — just hours after she did, when nobody yet knew she was an Ebola carrier, the first to become infected in Europe.

Early on October 5, after a bad fall overnight, Isabel Doñate cracked her head open and needed stitches. An ambulance was called.

Her nephew and guardian, Juan Ignacio Doñate, was also called by someone from the senior home, requesting his authorization for her transport to an ER. Doñato, a 55-year-old physician himself, gave the OK and rushed to meet with her at the Carlos III hospital.

Little did they know what that middle-of-the-night occurrence would give rise to.

When she was all stitched up and ready to go, the octogenarian was sent back to the geriatric residence to a series of odd and inexplicable changes. It’s not as if she didn't notice. Despite her age, the nephew explained to El País newspaper, Doñate is perfectly lucid and independently mobile.

"First they moved her roommate and then they moved her to another room, a distant room, under the false excuse that they had to paint her room," said unnamed sources quoted by the paper, where the story was first reported. Nurses came in briefly to take her temperature and nobody got close to her, they added.

Not pleased with the turn of events, after five days the nephew took the bold decision to bring her home with him. He took a leave of absence from work and has taken full charge of her since October 10, assuming the risk of becoming infected, too.

“I did not like the situation she was in. Now I'm on leave with her at home and they call from the Public Health Office every day. So far she hasn’t shown fever or any other symptoms,” the man said.

"She still does not know anything,” he added. “I have told her she will spend a few days with me to make the change into winter clothes."

Isabel is expected to return to the senior home on the 28th of this month, after the incubation period has come and gone. Her nephew, however, said he has requested a transfer to a home closer to where he lives.

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