By Justin Schmidt, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
ANDOVER, KS (KCTV/AP) -
A Kansas woman has filed suit claiming she is one of a number of people infected with hepatitis C by a former medical worker.
Authorities in several states are investigating the actions of David Kwiatkowski. He was arrested earlier this year in New Hampshire and is accused of infecting more than 30 patients at a hospital there by stealing syringes with a painkiller, then replacing them with ones tainted with his own blood.
Linda Ficken said she wants to see change so that people like Kwiatkowski can't get access to drugs.
"Before, hep C was just something that's out there. I knew nothing about it," Ficken said.
Now she worries about spreading the disease to her children or grandchildren.
"After I found out I had it my focus went to those around me. I get cut now, I see my blood and I think, ‘That's poison now,'" Ficken said.
Even before she holds her great-grandchildren, she asks permission. When a nurse saw her at the hospital, she noticed something new.
"She had everything laid out, but no gloves. I said, ‘You need to get you're gloves on.' I was aware of it - any other time I wouldn't have been," Ficken said.
Ficken is suing the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The lawsuit says Ficken was treated at a Kansas hospital in 2010 when Kwiatkowski worked there and that she recently tested positive for hepatitis C. Ficken's husband is also suing. She said the hospital didn't report Kwiatkowski for stealing and using drugs, spreading hep C everywhere he went.
"This is probably what really angers me more than anything. All the places that had an opportunity to suspect him of doing wrong things, yet nothing was done. He was not reported," Ficken said.
Now she's feeling the effects of her infection. At her doctor's office she complained of fatigue.
"He said that's the hep C. I said something else, he said that's hep C. I said, ‘Doctor, you're not getting on my good side, this is not what I want to hear,'" Ficken said.
Her doctor said there's not a great treatment option for her, so for now she tries to live with the virus that is attacking her liver.
"Wait and see what happens, I'm living on the edge, yes, it's definitely scary," Ficken said.
Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to federal drug charges in New Hampshire.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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