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.