December 02. 2013 9:52PM

Victims of Kwiatkowski devastated by illness

New Hampshire Union Leader

The case against 
David M. Kwiatkowski

Number of states in which he worked, 2003-2012: 8, in multiple hospitals

Hepatitis C diagnosis discovered: 2010 Number of patients he is known to have infected with hepatitis C: At least 45 (No way to determine precise number of those he exposed to virus): One at VA Medical Center, Baltimore, Md., in 2008; Six at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2009; Six at Hays Medical Center in Kansas in 2010; 32 at Exeter Hospital in 2011-2012

Deaths: One known (Kansas) Cases Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to Aug. 14: Seven of the NH cases plus the fatal Kansas case

Number of patients CDC recommended be tested for hepatitis C because of Kwiatkowski: More than 12,000 Number of Exeter Hospital patients tested: 3,753

Cost to New Hampshire to respond to public health crisis: $384,000

When Kwiatkowski began stealing pain killers intended for hospital patients: He admitted he began diverting drugs in 2002 when he and a co-worker stole vials of morphine from a Michigan emergency room.

What is hepatitis C: A viral, blood-borne illness most efficiently transmitted through contact with infected blood. It is potentially fatal. It is most commonly transmitted through needle-sharing by users of injectable drugs. It is occasionally spread sexually or through sharing personal items contaminated with infected blood (e.g. toothbrushes). There currently is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. A small percentage of those who become infected with the disease are able to “clear” the infection. Most (85 percent) develop chronic Hepatitis C. It can lead to chronic liver disease. There currently is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

CONCORD — Vietnam War veteran Linwood Nelson Sr. said he was devastated to learn he became infected with Hepatitis C while getting health care at the VA Medical Center in his native Baltimore, Md.

"It is so painful to me that this man was able to bring such devastation into my life," Linwood said of former drug-addicted traveling medical technician David M. Kwiatkowski.

"He should receive the same punishment that he has given us — the death penalty," Nelson told a federal judge.

Nelson described the extreme precautions he must take to protect his family from the potentially-fatal blood borne virus and protect himself from the disease's many complications.

"I was told by my doctors that my liver may stop functioning at any time and my blood may not clot. I had all my teeth removed so I wouldn't have to worry about my blood not clotting during my next dental work," he said.

Ronnie Murphy and his sister, Connie Murphy McNeal, traveled 1,700 miles from Hays, Kansas to describe the painful and unnecessary death their mother, Eleanor, 89, suffered as a result of complications from the Hepatitis C she contracted from Kwiatkowski.

"His path and my mother's should never have crossed," Ronnie Murphy said.

Other victims described the "stigma" and harm they endure, the painful treatments and depression and anxiety.

"Only an evil monster would do this to anyone — let alone to so many. We all want to know why," Linda Thompson said. Her husband, Butch, was one of the first to be infected by Kwiatkowski and was too sick to be in court.

"I ended up getting this horrible disease because I loved and cared for my husband," she told.