ST. CLOUD, Minn. (CN) - A heart patient suffered "uncontrollable pain" and had to have her forearm amputated because a hospital nurse stole her morphine for himself and injected her with contaminated substances instead, the woman claims in court.
Connie L. Tucker sued St. Cloud Hospital, a division of CentraCare Health System, in Stearns County Court.
Tucker, then 35, says she went to the hospital on Nov. 30, 2010, with "left upper extremity pain and numbness, and she was diagnosed with an embolism in the left brachial artery. A plan was developed which included a prescription for intravenous Dilaudid, also known as hydromorphone, administered through a Patient Controlled Analgesic ('PCA') pump for pain management."
The lawsuit continues: "Although plaintiff received Dilaudid on Nov. 30, 2010, a nursing note from 5:45 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2010 states plaintiff 'having uncontrollable pain. Dilaudid PCA increase did not even touch her pain. Currently at .4mg and .4mg. Crying out. State that she can not take it anymore.'"
On Dec. 1, 2010, Tucker underwent a left brachial artery catheter embolectomy, and two compartment fasciotomies. After surgery, her condition deteriorated.
"Still in severe pain in her left arm, plaintiff's temperature had soared to 104.6 degrees, the condition of her left hand worsened as it became cool, mottled, and her fingers turned purple, prompting doctors to conclude amputation was necessary. In the morning of Dec. 3, 2010, amputation of the plaintiff's distal left forearm (below the elbow) was performed at St. Cloud Hospital." (Parentheses in complaint.)
During recovery, Tucker says, she was given again Dilaudid PCA, and her fever persisted.
"By Dec. 4, 2010, plaintiff was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia hypoxemia secondary to pneumonia, gram negative bacteremia, and her fever persisted" according to the complaint.
It continues: "By early Dec. 5, 2010, with worsening respiratory distress, plaintiff was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit ('ICU'), where she was intubated. Dilaudid PCA was changed to continuous only of .4mg/hr. On or before Dec. 5, 2010, plaintiff's above-referenced blood cultures revealed the presence of a kelbsiella oxytoca, and the second one also revealed tatumella, bacterial blood infections. Thus, plaintiff acquired a bloodstream bacterial infection during her stay at defendant St. Cloud Hospital and suffered adverse effects from the transmission of the bacterial infection. Plaintiff was treated for the infection with antibiotics during her stay."
Tucker says she remained at St. Cloud Hospital until Dec. 15, 2010, during which time she continued to receive Dilaudid PCA, but it had no effect.
According to the complaint: "Plaintiff received a letter from defendant St. Cloud Hospital, dated March 15, 2011, wherein the defendant admitted plaintiff acquired a bloodstream bacterial infection while at St. Cloud Hospital. Plaintiff was treated for a bloodstream bacterial infection during her stay at St. Cloud Hospital. Upon information and belief, the bacterial infection referred to in the March 15, 2011, is klebsiella oxytoca and tatumella as noted above and in plaintiff's medical records.
"Defendant St. Cloud Hospital's investigation showed the infection occurred 'because a nurse may have inadvertently introduced bacteria into intravenous (IV) bags of painkillers while diverting drugs for personal use.'"
In that March 15, 2011 letter, "St. Cloud Hospital admits that as a result of this situation, plaintiff 'may have received inadequate pain medication' during her stay," Tucker says.
She claims that in 2012, St. Cloud Hospital employee Blake Zenner was convicted in Federal Court of one or more controlled-substances offenses, stemming from diverting her drugs, including Dilaudid, for his personal use.
Tucker seeks damages for medical malpractice.
She is represented by James Sheehy, with Meshbesher & Spence, of Minneapolis.