Letter to the EditorThe New Haven Register
Last week’s brief ebola scare at Yale is not the first time a Yale-New Haven Hospital isolation procedure has had national attention.
In a 1984 “60 Minutes” reported the plight of a two year old infant with AIDS who had spent his entire life in a Yale-New Haven Hospital intensive care unit, believed to have been the first known case of heterosexual transmission of AIDS in the United States. The baby had been born with AIDS and his mother was a New Haven prostitute and heroin addict.
The national urgency --- uncomfortably close to panic --- which set in after last week’s transmission of the ebola virus to two Texas nurses treating a now deceased ebola victim at Texas Presbyterian Hospital, is reminiscent of the intense fear provoked by the “60 Minutes” broadcast in 1984 about New Haven’s “AIDS prostitute”. http://aidsatyale.blogspot.
In both cases mistakes were made.
The Centers for Disease Control last week actually seemed out of control, backtracking its protocol recommendations as they became contradicted by reality; in the case of the Yale/New Haven AIDS prostitute, Connecticut officials seemed out of control, as she was arrested on drug charges, sent to a drug rehabilitation center, and allowed to walk out of security doors purposely left unlocked by a staff who were terrified of dealing with a person whose disease was a mystery --- and certain death --- at the time when the source of transmission of AIDS was uncertain and medical remedies were unknown.
When I visited the patient at St. Raphael’s Hospital in 1983 as a volunteer and Yale Divinity School graduate, to secure her promise to stay off the streets if donors paid her rent and grocery bill, I was required to wear a head–to-toe protective suit, and my notepad and pencil were confiscated by nurses as I left the room, for fear they were contaminated.
When I returned the next day to visit the patient, she had fled the hospital. She died a year later. Her infant, who she visited regularly at Yale/New Haven, died soon thereafter.
In both the ebola and the AIDS prostitute situation, Yale-New Haven Hospital has a record of courage and preparedness: it admitted the 2014 ebola researcher for observation and it kept the 1983/84 AIDS infant as a patient for the entire two years his life, both in the midst of public frenzy and publicity.
We --- and perhaps the Centers for Disease Control --- can learn much from Yale- New Haven Hospital.
Paul D. KeaneM. Div. ‘80
Yale Divinity School
newspapers?nid=1320&dat= 19840222&id=kS0gAAAAIBAJ&sjid= xekDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5673,2522996
newspapers?nid=861&dat= 19640221&id=NhFQAAAAIBAJ&sjid= TlYDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4907,5090822
newspapers?nid=1916&dat= 19850115&id=VSZJAAAAIBAJ&sjid= ZQYNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1374,1921830
newspapers?nid=1916&dat= 19850506&id=6xJJAAAAIBAJ&sjid= ugUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=6854,829217