"My daughter received a tainted bone graft. When I found out, I felt like someone had violated her. Then she tested positive for Hepatitis C."
Adding insult to injury, she was asked what other exposures to Hepatitis C her daughter may have had!
"My kid doesn't have any risk factors for these things, she is a good kid and it angers me to hear anyone ask me what other exposures she has had," says Karen Connors (not her real name to protect her daughter). Karen starts to cry, something she has been doing a lot of. "How dare they imply that maybe [the bone transplant] isn't where she got Hepatitis C ?"
Karen's daughter had her surgery in March, 2005. "She has scoliosis and it progressed to the point where she needed a spinal fusion," Karen says. "I am a nurse in a recovery room at the hospital, so it is especially hard for us. It is ironic that the hardest thing for her to deal with is receiving bone from a dead person. She had just turned 13 at the time of all this decision-making. She was a ballerina and it's such a hard thing for a kid of her age; she can't pursue ballet any longer."
She had the surgery and it went well. Karen's daughter wasn't given the option of grafting her own bone - she needed to have 12 fusions in total, she needed more bone than her own body could supply. Also, by using a cadaver bone, she wouldn't suffer long-term pain (there is often more pain from the bone-replacement area) and generally, kids do better with cadaver bones than adults - there is a better chance of fusion. "We donated blood for her and went to great lengths to keep our daughter safe," says Karen. And because she is a nurse, she was able to choose the best surgeon. "The last thing I ever expected was to have some low-life put her in jeopardy like this."
"Thinking about all that she went through, and now this, you couldn't have even dreamt this one up. I was at work when we found out. At first it was discovered that two patients had received contaminated grafts. Then 24 hours later, the hospital found out that it wasn't just two patients - we had just heard the tip of the iceberg. My daughter had also gotten a tainted transplant.
"I have worked at this hospital for 15 years. Forty people from my hospital got potentially tainted grafts, either from bone or tissue and had to be tested. My daughter tested positive for Hepatitis C, but it went on to the Mayo clinic and was negative. I think she was exposed to Hepatitis C and her antibodies might have converted. But Hepatitis C can stay dormant for 20 years and there is no cure except for a liver transplant. She doesn't know this. I haven't told her but I also don't want to lie to her.
"It appalls me. I am an adult with reasonable coping skills but this is so hard. I fear that one day she will find out and she will be really angry. The surgeon is a very quiet man, an excellent surgeon and does a great job. But he is also very angry. He can potentially harm people unknowingly. The resident doctor is devastated. This was the first kid he ever took care of. It puts everyone in an awful spot.
"You can't let go of something like this. I just keep thinking that someone is going to tell me that everything is going to be fine, but it isn't. Later on, as more people test positive for HIV or Hepatitis C, [Biomedical Tissue Services] could assume that people are getting infected by other means. But I know my daughter.
"There is something wrong with the system to allow someone like this, a drug-addicted oral surgeon who lost his license, to be CEO of Biomedical Services. He is without conscience. He violated so many people, so many families. He took the most vulnerable people on both sides - those he took bones and tissue from, and those who received them.
"I would like to come face to face with him. What he did is heinous."
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|. By Jane Mundy|
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