Surgery tech switches painkiller syringes and infects 17 with Hepatitis C

Jenny Decker RN's picture
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A nightmare no one wants to experience occurred in two Colorado hospitals. Surgery tech Kristin Parker, 27, used her access to fentanyl to feed her drug addiction, and subsequently infected at least 17 people with Hepatitis C, writes the Denver Post. Hepatitis C is a disease that affects the liver, caused by a virus. It can lead to permanent liver damage and sometimes it leads to death.

Though there are vaccinations for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, there is currently no defense against Hepatitis C. Kristin Parker was addicted to drugs and found work as a surgery tech in order to feed her addiction. She took the syringes that were filled with fentanyl and injected herself with the drug at home. Then she refilled the same syringe with normal saline and replaced the syringe in the surgery room. Having contracted Hepatitis C from previous heroin drug use, several thousand people were exposed to Hepatitis C from surgery tech Kristin Parker.

Kristin Parker became addicted to drugs in high school. She used marijuana, cocaine, and she also experimented with LSD and Ecstasy. Her addicting began after she had jaw surgery in 2000. Needing more, she applied for work where she had easy access to drugs. She admitted recently to federal prosecutors how she got the drugs and used them. This admission was part of a plea arrangement with the prosecutors.

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Hospitals where investigators have determined that patients have been exposed to Hepatitis C were the Denver Rose Medical Center and Colorado Springs’ Audobon Surgery Center. Other hospitals where Parker worked in Mount Kisco, New York, and Christus St. John Hospital right outside Houston did not have exposure to the liver disease. Though she stole fentanyl from these facilities, she used clean needles.

According to Channel 13 News, over 4000 patients were tested at the Rose Medical Center and over 1100 patients were tested for Hepatitis C at Audubon. So far, only 17 have Hepatitis C confirmed linked to surgery tech Parker. On September 19, Parker pleaded guilty to 19 counts of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deception. When fentanyl is replaced with normal saline, the patient does not get the pain control needed for proper healing. Although only 17 were infected with Hepatitis C, several thousand did not receive proper pain control either.

WebMD states that signs and symptoms of Hepatitis C include fatigue, joint pain, tummy pain, itchy skin, sore muscles, dark urine, yellowish eyes and yellowish skin. Some people do not experience symptoms. As a result, a person may carry the liver disease for 15 years before being diagnosed. Hepatitis C is diagnosed by blood testing. The blood test may show antibodies to Hepatitis C.The doctor also looks for elevated liver enzymes. If the doctor suspects from these blood tests that Hepatitis C is present, then a liver biopsy will be done to see if there is any liver scarring.

There is also a test you can do at home if you suspect that you might have the liver disease. This test is called a Home Access Hepatitis C Check Kit. It can be bought at most drug stores. If you do this test and it shows that you may have Hepatitis C, then you should contact your doctor to see if you need any treatment or further testing.

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