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How A Drug Addicted Scrub Tech Changed My Life Forever

Posted Oct 11 2012 10:28pm

It was a cold winter day in 2009 when my life changed forever, however, it would be months before I figured that out.  On that fateful day, a drug-addicted surgical scrub tech assigned to my operating room stole syringes of fentanyl, a potent intravenous narcotic, from my anesthesia cart.  According to news reports, investigative summaries, and the scrub tech’s confession, once she took the syringes, she used them on herself.

It’s hard to fathom, but that’s not even the really sick and twisted part to this tale.  The scrub tech had hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that attacks and, sometimes, destroys the liver.  She knew she was positive for the virus.  Yet, after injecting herself with a drug intended for a vulnerable and innocent patient, she chose to refill the syringe, which was contaminated with her infected blood, with saline and replace it in my cart.  There was no way I could have known that she had tampered with my drugs.  The syringes were in the same place where I left them, and both fentanyl and saline look identical.  So, on that unfortunate day, I unknowingly injected a mixture of saline and hepatitis C into my patient’s bloodstream, instead of a painkiller.

The following summer, the story made local and national headlines.  At least 5,000 patients were at risk for having been exposed to the virus.  Every anesthesiologist in my group secretly prayed that they weren’t involved.  The hospital went into extreme damage-control mode.  Tight restrictions and policies regarding the handling and securing of narcotics were hastily instituted.  Panicked patients were tested en masse for the potentially lethal virus.


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