Local News

Wayne County Man Says He May Have Received Tainted Steroid

Posted October 2, 2002

— A man who believes he was injected with a tainted painkiller wants some answers. He is one of nearly 900 people who received the shot at one of three North Carolina pain clinics that used them. The drug caused

meningitis

in three patients, killing one.

One of James Hickman's biggest joys in life is riding his motorcycle. He feels like he got a second chance at life when he survived cancer. Now, he is worried about losing that chance.

"I've always been worried about whether I'm going to get cancer again. Now, I have to worry about contaiminated medicine being injected into my spine," Hickman said.

In June, Hickman received two shots at Wayne Memorial Hospital's Pain Clinic in Goldsboro. After hearing about contaminated shots on television, Hickman called the hospital.

"They said that the people who came down with it came down with it after 10 weeks, but they still didn't know if I could come down with it or not. If I got the symptoms -- headache, stiff neck -- [they said] go to the hospital immediately," he said.

Due to patient confidentiality rules, Wayne Memorial will not confirm whether or not Hickman received a contaminated shot. Hospital officials say they have spoken with 23 patients or their family members by phone and sent out 24 letters Tuesday to patients detailing the situation.

Investigators believe the contaminated drug came from a compounding pharmacy in South Carolina. Mary Scyster, of Pinehurst, died from meningitis after receiving the steroid at the Moore Regional Hospital Pain Clinic. Her attorney, Jim Maxwell, said doctors at Duke University treated Scyster and traced her illness back to the painkiller.

"They did some remarkable medical detective work there. They were able to identify it, but at that point, there wasn't much they could do for Scyster," Maxwell said.

So far, doctors at Duke have not commented on their role in uncovering the contamination. State health officials say it is very rare for this type of mold to infect people, especially with meningitis. All of the pain clinics are contacting patients who may have been contaminated.

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