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October 30. 2013 10:56PM

Wife of hepatitis C victim, claiming she's now infected, sues Exeter Hospital

BRENTWOOD — A Hampstead woman is suing Exeter Hospital and other agencies, claiming she became infected with hepatitis C through contact with her husband after he contracted the virus from “serial infector” David Kwiatkowski while being treated at the hospital.

In a lawsuit filed in Rockingham County Superior Court, Linda Sanborn says her husband, Alden “Butch” Sanborn, transmitted hepatitis C to her through “intimate contact” that occurred before they were aware of his infection.

“Certainly it’s a fear of spouses and an understandable one,” Linda Sanborn’s attorney, Paul Kleinman said of the partners of those affected by the hepatitis C outbreak caused by Kwiatkowski’s drug diversion scheme while working as a hospital lab technician.

According to the suit, Butch Sanborn was admitted to the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab on Jan. 27, 2012, for a procedure.

The suit said he became infected with hepatitis C through Kwiatkowski, who has admitted that while working at Exeter Hospital he would “swap out” the pain killer fentanyl by taking a syringe of the drug and replacing it with a syringe containing saline. He would inject the drug and then refill the syringe with saline. The syringe’s dirty needle was then reused on unsuspecting patients.

Butch Sanborn was diagnosed with hepatitis C, a potentially fatal viral infection of the liver, in late March 2012 after he was admitted to a Boston hospital.

Linda Sanborn was tested for the virus last year, but the test result was negative at the time, according to Kleinman of Bouchard, Kleinman & Wright of Manchester.

“What happened was it was one of those situations where the disease hadn’t shown up at that point. This was a unique situation and one where it was passed on by someone who had a very, very significant viral load in terms of the disease,” Kleinman said Wednesday.

New Hampshire Director of Public Health Dr. Jose Montero said Wednesday he could not discuss any particular patient, but he did confirm that only one person contracted hepatitis C through secondary transmission.

Experts say hepatitis C is transmitted when blood from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected.

The suit was brought against the hospital, the American Healthcare Service Association, Triage Staffing Inc., the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, and Maxim Healthcare Services Inc. The suit accuses all of the defendants of negligence.

In August, Kwiatkowski, 34, pleaded guilty to 14 charges related to the outbreak after making a deal with federal prosecutors following a nationwide investigation into the hepatitis C scare that infected 32 patients at Exeter Hospital and at least a dozen more at other hospitals he worked at in Maryland and Kansas. One patient in Kansas has since died.

Kwiatkowski, who is expected to be sentenced to 30 to 40 years in prison in December, admitted that he’s been diverting drugs since 2002, according to court documents.

Kwiatkowski told investigators that he swapped out fentanyl-filled syringes about 50 times while working at Exeter Hospital and did the same at other hospitals where he worked.

“Despite the fact that there were various red flags that should have alerted the hospital to the fact that its employee David Kwiatkowski, who was working in patient care, was drug-seeking, the defendant did not take reasonable and appropriate action to supervise, monitor and implement appropriate discipline to its employee, who ended up infecting patients including Butch Sanborn with hepatitis C,” Sanborn’s suit said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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