Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

April 14, 2013

Number of spinal infections growing

TRAVERSE CITY — What started as a pinched nerve in her back on a camping trip last July has turned Theresa Hall’s life into a painful nightmare with no end in sight.

Hall’s back pain continued to flare throughout the summer, and, in August, a doctor at Neuromuscular and Rehabilitation Associates of Northern Michigan injected her with a steroid shot to ease the pain. It didn’t work, so she had a second shot, and then a third on September 26 — the same day the manufacturer recalled the tainted steroid medicine.

Hall was advised in an October letter that the steroid shot could have been tainted and to watch out for symptoms.

“I didn’t get any better, and as time went on, the pain got worse,” Hall said. “My toes went numb, my calf was numb, it hurt to walk, to stand. Any movement at all was really bad.”

In late December doctors took an MRI of Hall’s spine and ordered her to the emergency room the same day. They had diagnosed a fungal infection. Since then she’s been on an odyssey of hospitalizations, testing, and medications. Adding to the stress are hospital bills of more than $100,000.

Fortunately, insurance pays the lion’s share of a $6,400-a-month antibiotic. But the medicine makes her nauseous, confused, forgetful, and hallucinatory. So much so, that Hall, a former bus driver and dispatcher, has lost hope of working. Doctors can’t even assure her the antibiotic will wipe out the infection, she said.

“They can’t get (the fungus) out because it’s in my spine,” she said. “I’m so depressed. And I’m angry. I’m so angry it happened to so many people, not just me. For what? Greed?”

Hall is one of 50 area patients, who are working with attorneys Mark Dancer and Daniel Meyers. The number grows every day, said Dancer, whose Traverse City firm has filed two suits against the medicine’s manufacturer, New England Compounding Center, and plans to file dozens more.

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