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Medical Mystery Possibly Linked to Heparin

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Fort Collins, COKelly R. says she is not positive that she was given a Heparin injection or was exposed to Heparin at all during her Cesarean section. However, she has suffered from side effects that have been linked to Heparin contamination in other people. In fact, the very thing she suffered from—Serratia—was one of the reasons for last year's Heparin recall.

Cesarean"Basically, I went into the hospital on July 3, 2007," Kelly says. "I had to have a C-section. So, I had my C-section and I was in the hospital with my son [Joseph] for 5 days afterwards. Then we left and everything seemed normal.

"Four days later, I started feeling really sick. I had the flu and a high fever and red streaks across my chest. I felt really bad and in addition to that, my breasts hurt a lot. I was pumping breast milk and I guess my milk ducts were all clogged. I was sick for about 2.5 months. A week after being in the hospital, I noticed that after I pumped the breast milk and put it in the fridge, the milk would turn hot pink. It was the most bizarre thing.

"At that point, the baby was really fussy and colicky. We weren't sure if anything was wrong. At his check-ups, he seemed fine. After he was home for a few weeks I was supplementing him with formula, because I was not going to feed him pink milk. He would drink formula from the bottle and I would take the bottle away and leave it by the sink. A few hours later, the bottle would be hot pink. Everything he ate turned hot pink.

"I went to about 50 doctors and no one knew what was wrong with me. I was given different antibiotics and nothing helped. I was told I had breast cancer or other problems but no one got it right. Finally one night I went to the ER. I was frustrated and I had difficulty breathing. The hospital did a culture and said I had Serratia and I had been on the wrong medication. They gave me Levaquin and within a week the red streaks on my chest were gone and I felt better.

"They did a culture on the baby and he had 100 percent Serratia, too. The doctors wouldn't treat him because the medicines are bad for babies. They can cause blindness and other problems. So, they said as long as he was growing, they wouldn't treat him. After I was cured, I fed him breast milk and that was the only thing he would drink that didn't turn pink. He was sick for 15 months. He had it a long time.

"We had him cultured and re-cultured many times, hoping it would go away. Finally, we went to a health food store where they recommended a probiotic made with breast milk. I gave him that and then we had him cultured and he had lost the Serratia."

In January 2008, the FDA announced a recall of all lots of heparin and saline pre-filled flush syringes manufactured by AM2 PAT Inc. because 2 lots were found contaminated with Serratia marcescens, which is a bacterium that can be deadly if untreated. Serratia has been linked to pneumonia, blood infections and urinary tract infections.

Kelly says she has asked if she was exposed to Heparin during her C-section but says the hospital has no record on that.

"We don't know about the long-term effects on Joseph," Kelly says. "He was very fussy when he was young—doctors said it was unusual. He would go from 0 to 100 in 2 seconds and he would turn purple when he cried. Nothing seemed to help him. He was also extremely gassy. I guess that was from stomach problems from the Serratia.

"The doctors haven't told us anything about what he could go through because of this. The thing is, none of the doctors here had ever seen it. The specialists hadn't even seen it. They took samples of his pink bottles to national conferences and the people at the conferences had never seen it. This is uncharted territory."

In fact, Kelly's situation is so unusual that Mystery Diagnosis, a Discovery Health program, has recently filmed an episode about Kelly and Joseph, to be aired some time this year. Kelly's story has also been featured in the newspaper Fort Collins Now.

"Right after I had the baby, we were going to the Wee Steps program for babies," Kelly says. "I had spoken to the nurse there and told her that something is wrong with me. She said that any illness that comes on within a week of leaving the hospital is considered hospital-acquired. I didn't see anything about the Heparin and Serratia for a while after I was sick. They have no way of knowing how I got it. But, I spoke to a Serratia expert and he says he has seen many lawsuits because of Serratia."

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