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Hosted by CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion

A Patient Speaks from the Heart

Categories: Drug Diversion, Injection Safety, Patient Safety

Karen Morrow

Karen Morrow

Guest Author: Karen Morrow

Like any other tragedy, the first thing to enter a person’s mind is, “This can’t be happening to me.”  It’s exactly what I thought.  I absolutely knew that I was OK…until I read the test results.  I still go back and read them now and can’t believe they are mine.  Writing this now, I am crying.  Even after all this time, it is still just so unbelievable to me.

I was one of the patients notified that I might be at risk for serious disease during the 2008 hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas.  Unbelievably, I tested positive for hepatitis C.  I followed the CDC’s recommended course of treatment, which was 48 weeks of both interferon and ribavin.  This regimen itself brought on a plethora of symptoms, some of which were nausea, insomnia, hair loss, exhaustion, muscle aches and pains, diarrhea and constipation.   Throughout the recent criminal trial involving my healthcare provider, I would go and sit in the courtroom every afternoon after work to listen.  I was sick at my stomach and nervous as hell, but I needed to be there.  Words fail me sometimes at the situation in which I find myself.  My whole life I have been a good girl:  absolutely no risky behaviors.  But I am a totally different person today than I was the moment before I received that call from my doctor’s office.

The rippling effect upon our communities from the acts committed by a few healthcare providers is never-ending.  A sea of grief, pain and heartache that never stops washing over us.  Our family, friends and co-workers—entire communities—are all affected.  If we can’t feel safe in the hands of our healthcare professionals, where can we feel safe?  When we are sick, we want our physicians to tell us that everything will be OK.  I will never have that comforting feeling again.  Upon reading weekly news accounts of unsafe injections, I am continually reminded that we live in an imperfect world.  And unfortunately, the more I read, the more my eyes are opened to the fact that the stimulus of many of these acts seems to be financial motivation.

I am not bitter about my situation and I don’t feel sorry for myself.  I have never asked “Why me?”  My sisters are in the medical profession—one is a dentist and one is an RN.  They are loving and beautiful women and I am very proud they are my sisters.  So I know, truly and deeply in my heart, that the majority of medical professionals have dedicated their lives to caring for people and upholding the oath they took.  But I am a realist as well and know that there are also those who do not place enough emphasis on, or fully understand, the responsibility they bear for their patients’ well-being.

I am a very positive person by nature.  To see the best in everyone is my first instinct.  I abhor drama—mostly because I hate attention being focused upon me.  (My husband jokes that I won’t even sing Karaoke.)  But I cannot and will not sit by and watch others go through what I went through and continue to go through every day.  If I can get one healthcare professional’s attention to think twice about potentially harming a patient through an injection-related infection, I will know our efforts are not in vain.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. October 23, 2013 at 8:33 am ET  -   Karen, VIrginia RN

    Thank you for speaking out and putting a face on a frightening possibility for patients everywhere. I’m going to share your story with my dentist and hygienist.
    Karen, Virginia RN

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  2. October 17, 2013 at 10:50 am ET  -   Tyrah

    Thank you for sharring this story wth us. I am sorry for the added stress this may have caused you and your family. Please know that all healthcare employees are not like this and take pride in the care they give. I hope that you may find comfort and peace knowing that others will be helped with you story.

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  3. October 4, 2013 at 12:50 am ET  -   AKshay

    Karen, thank you for putting a face and voice to the reason we strive so hard every day to ensure our patients are safe and that we do no harm. What happened to you and the others involved in this case has affected all of us in healthcare…not in a harmful way, but it has made us rethink how we do our jobs. We appreciate you taking your time and spending the emotional strength to verbalize what you experienced. May God bless you and continue to use your testimony to do only good.

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  4. September 30, 2013 at 5:31 am ET  -   Kathy

    I am so sorry for your pain! It appalls me to know some of the injection practices that have been going on! I have been an RN for 32 years and I would have never dreamed of doing some of the things I have read about. What is scary is that their are so many medical errors that are covered up and are never revealed to the public until something like what happened to you occurs. No one should be all trusting.

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  5. September 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm ET  -   Mary Lou Shookhoff

    When I heard about the contaminated medication vials and that people knowingly injected patients with the contents, I was horrified! I have had epidural injections for pain and injections into both knees and never once thought that the medications might be contaminated, thank God. But I did go to me surgeon after my second total knee replacement with a raging infection in the knee.And he told me that a red, hot swollen knee with brown goo dripping out of it was NOT infected. I obviously went to someone else who did a wash out of the knee and found it to be badly infected with MRSA. Due to my new doctor’s cutting edge care, I still have my leg and it’s still functional. And my new doctor can’t understand why the original surgeon didn’t treat that infection immediately. Especially since he had taken care of me for 11 years and knew that I was an experienced RN!
    So I can empathize with you and every other victim of medical greed. These doctors need to be pruned from the thousands of wonderful doctors who take great care of their patients. My son-in-law has Hep C and recently took part in a clinical trial for a new treatment for it which looks promising. So hang in there and look out for that treatment, hopefully in the near future.

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  6. September 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm ET  -   Rob Hopkins

    It is difficult for me to imagine how anyone could “carelessly” give a patient hepatitis. I am, let it be said, a pestilence for my doctors, because I am my own advocate. When someone comes in the room to treat me, I have to know that they washed their hands before touching me. I’m a Wilderness First Responder; I’m wearing sterile gloves before I touch someone injured or sick, and I wash my hands afterwards. I’m both horrified and curious; how did any trained health care provider communicate hepatitis? A dirty needle? How did this person find a place in the field? What happened to the screening process for people in the field? I am very sympathetic toward the young woman. This is hugely wrong!

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  7. September 28, 2013 at 6:56 am ET  -   Tina

    ok atfter reading this I am confused. Did this person get Hep C from an injection? that she was suppose to get. This only states that she got a call stating that she got it from an out break. Please clarify

    Thank you,

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  8. September 27, 2013 at 8:51 pm ET  -   lorene hall

    Dear Karen, your work and sharing is not in vain. I still wonder how any of us will know if we have been infected by our doctors through greed or just a terrible accident. We read all we can about what ever our diagnosis maybe and we are prescribed medication according to the diagnosis, and even seek a second opinion . But are there other things we should be doing?

    Thank you,

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  9. September 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm ET  -   John

    This is such a tragedy – that need not have happened!
    I have notice, as a professional looking on, that if the healthcare person is overloaded with work, the tendency to cut corners; i.e. hand washing! This is at the very basic of giving patients the care they deserve. Feedback on assignments would be of great value! A simple case in point: the care giver has donned gloves to protect him/herself, and the attention in already in progress. The phone rings, and the care giver goes directly to the phone, and picks it up with the gloved hand! That receiver in now contaminated to every person that subsequently uses it, and the infection continues, and all the subsequent people will unknowingly be passed on, and passed on, and passed on! This cross infection will continue to occur until the phone is cleaned again!! The original care provider took the trouble to self protect, but gave no thought to others working in the area!!!
    On a personal professional level, it is always good for all hospital personnel spend a little time in the O.R. where they can learn lines of demarcation between sterile and not sterile, and disinfected and not disinfected. Whilst this detour in the assigned work area, the knowledge gained here becomes invaluable, even, perhaps life saving!!!
    After working on the floors and the O.R. as an instructor, the statistical evidence that followed those who had done a ‘stint’ in O.R., was a great success!
    John, R.N., C.N.I., Ph.D.

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  10. September 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm ET  -   Valerie Rye

    Have just been diagnosed with Wet Macular Degeneration and the treatment to stop or slow the vision loss are injections into the eyeball itself. I was terrified at the diagnosis and first treatment. Don’t know which was more frightening the diagnosis and loss of vision or the treatment, monthly injections into the eye. Then I read your story and now am even more frightened. I like my retinalogist and have confidence in him but I started through college headed into the medical profession and had a chance to see the good bad and the ugly. Then, I decided I didn’t want medicine and went back and did a second BA, Masters and 45 credits toward my doctorate in education and taught for quite a long time.

    No it isn’t a perfect world and we try to appreciate and deal with it the way it is I guess. My sons say there is no choice but to have the injections and I do know without them I will lose all vision. Have already lost 70%+ in my left eye.

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  11. September 27, 2013 at 11:54 am ET  -   Sophia

    Karen – as a nurse in the infection control field, your story will be very helpful to share with healthcare workers when I provide them education on bloodborne pathogen exposure prevention. Thank you for posting your story!

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  12. September 27, 2013 at 11:19 am ET  -   Debbie

    Thanks for sharing your story; I applaud you.

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  13. September 27, 2013 at 10:54 am ET  -   Errol Prasad

    As a healthcare provider I sympathize with Ms Morrow and her very unfortunate experience. We as a group, need to heed the adage, “FIRST DO NO HARM.”
    The words seem hollow when we read Ms Morrow’s account. As she correctly observes, for the sake of a few greedy and irresponsible individuals, the entire profession has a black mark against it.

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  14. September 27, 2013 at 10:45 am ET  -   Cornelia Wakhanu

    Am very much sorry for what happened. That is why standards are being strengthened on implementations to ensure quality service delivery.

    Thanks Karen for taking courage though painful to accept and sharing to save many, not only patients/clients but health care providers themselves too.

    Cornelia-Nurse Midwife, from Kenya

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  15. September 27, 2013 at 10:28 am ET  -   Cassandra Palmer

    I am an RN working in Infection Control/Employee Health.
    I graduated Nursing School in 1987–Like you I am dumbfounded on how this can occur.
    There are so many precautions we are trained to take, they are the “commandments” for healthcare.

    I wanted to say as I read your letter I too wept/ the thought that I could do something causing anyone what you are going through is enough to make me question my resovle.
    I will forward this to my clinical staff as they all need to read what you feel.

    Thank You so much for your words
    May God give you peace and healing.
    Cassandra Palmer RN

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  16. September 27, 2013 at 10:24 am ET  -   Yesenia Khattak

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m an Infection Preventionist and am constantly educating the importance of safe practice. Your story will be part of my education objectives, from now on to encourage the Health Team I work with on the importance of donig the right thing.


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  17. September 27, 2013 at 10:22 am ET  -   Vicki

    Karen, thank you for putting a face and voice to the reason we strive so hard every day to ensure our patients are safe and that we do no harm. What happened to you and the others involved in this case has affected all of us in healthcare…not in a harmful way, but it has made us rethink how we do our jobs. We appreciate you taking your time and spending the emotional strength to verbalize what you experienced. May God bless you and continue to use your testimony to do only good!

    Link to this comment

  18. September 27, 2013 at 9:56 am ET  -   Miss Patty RN

    I am a registered nurse and would like to apologize for those in the healthcare profession who have wounded you so, not just in body but in spirit. You deserved better.

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  19. September 27, 2013 at 9:50 am ET  -   Dr. Sarwar

    I am also Medical Doctor. Some greedy or careless Doctors / Dentists are responsible for injection-related infections. Dentists are more responsible for spreading Hepatitis. All should be careful. Syringes and instruments used by Dentists must be properly sterilized.

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