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The Possibility of Hepatitis C Through No Fault of My Own

Posted Jul 10 2009 12:00am

Back in December I was scheduled for surgery at a big-city hospital and doing a lot of hand wringing in this blog as I worried about the possibility that C. diff, a nasty little bug prevalent in hospitals, might complicate my recovery. Everything is relative, as they say, and now, more than six months post-op, I’m wishing I could broker a deal to contract C. diff in place of what is hanging over me.

I returned home from a long July 4th weekend spent with no newspapers and no television, to hear a shocking item on the ten o’clock news. A hepatitis C-infected surgical tech in the OR where I had my surgery has admitted to stealing syringes of Fentanyl from anesthesia carts and replacing them with her used syringes filled with saline. Her employment in that OR spanned nearly 6 months, placing me among the 5,700 at-risk patients who had surgery during that time.

The registered letter notifying me of the dreadful circumstances was delivered the next day. The same afternoon I had a blood draw and was told it could be as long as two weeks before the hospital notifies me of the test results. So far, ten patients have tested positive for Hep C.

I have no idea what the odds might be that I could be a victim of the syringe switching tech. There are 5,700 of us patients and just one of her. How many cases she might’ve assisted each day, I don’t know. I’m sure odds makers in Vegas could give me the numbers, but it is a worry any way I look at it. The good news—and I’m hanging on tight to this—is that 15-25% of Hep C patients won’t get a chronic infection and 90% of Hep C patients are likely to recover if treated within six months. I, unfortunately, passed the six-month mark on June 10, but maybe that is close enough to still get a good outcome.

It has been reported that even if the hospital had known the tech had Hep C, disability law would not allow the hospital to treat her differently than other employees. How much sense does that make when we’re talking about a surgical tech’s individual rights versus public safety, for crying out loud?

So, I’m biding my time, trying to maintain a positive attitude and hoping for the best as I await my test results. I’m just sorry that anyone is going to suffer because of this debacle and the fact that the tech faces a life sentence is small consolation.

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