Evelyn McKnight is a survivor of the Nebraska outbreak, in which 99 cancer patients contracted Hepatitis C through reuse of an IV bag on multiple patients.
Recently, I had what started out as a minor health situation. But as time went on, I experienced a cascade of health complications which resulted in a not-so-minor situation. I neared dehydration, and I would need IV fluids if my condition continued to deteriorate. The thought of an IV infusion panicked me, and I asked for 24 hours before we began IV fluids.
As I chugged Gatorade, I tried not to think about the last time I had an IV infusion, which was during chemotherapy in 2000. The nurse reused syringes to access a mutidose saline bag. When a nurse used a syringe on a patient with known Hepatitis C and then reused the same syringe to access the IV bag, the IV bag was contaminated. This happened multiple times during the day; in fact, it was found during an investigation by Nebraska Health and Human Services that after a day’s use, the bag was cloudy, pink, with bits of sediment. In this way, 99 Nebraskans contracted Hepatitis C.
I also tried not to think about the 5000 patients at a Dakota Dunes, South Dakota clinic who were exposed to Hepatitis C through reuse of IV tubing in 2009. Or of my friend Melisa, who contracted Hepatitis C through reuse of an IV bag and tubing in a Holistic Health clinic in Brandon, Florida.
Co-incidentally, as i was laying on the couch, forcing down electrolytes, an article from the New York Times described the rampant use of IV infusions to treat relatively minor ailments in the Korean community in New York City, often in substandard conditions. Asian immigrants have brought the practice with them from their homeland and “day spas” have sprung up to provide the IV’s to the immigrants. The article went on to describe a patient who suffered an infection after an IV infusion that resulted in amputation of most of her hands and both legs below her knees.
This news further added to my anxiety. As I tried to rehydrate, I prepared myself mentally for an IV should I need one. Because of the holidays, I would not have a loved one to advocate for me; I would need to advocate for myself. I reviewed a piece from the One & Only Campaign entitled “What Patients Need to Know About Safe Medical Injections” and reviewed “What to ask Healthcare Providers “ on the One and Only Campaign website. The website suggests that patients ask healthcare providers this question before an injection: “Will there be a new needle, new syringe and new vial for this injection? I knew that i would need to change the wording to “Will there be a new IV bag and new tubing for this infusion? I even made a homemade sign modeled after the One and Only Campaign logo to make my point.
Unsafe injection practices can take many forms: reuse of insulin pens, needles, syringes, IV tubing and bags to name a few. It is clear that my predicament is one of many. I urge our industry and healthcare partners to join us this year in safeguarding the IV infusion process.
I did not need to have the IV. If I would have needed one, I would not have hesitated to have it, since I was empowered and educated by the One and Only Campaign to partner with my healthcare providers to have a safe infusion. I am very grateful that the One and Only Campaign provides resources for patients that facilitates a conversation that they can have with their provider about safe injection practices.