Patient Claims Hospital Infection Led To Her Amputation

By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) —  Two months ago, 23 patients at the St. Cloud Hospital were informed by letter that their bacterial infection was caused by a nurse stealing IV drugs. Now, one of those patients is angrily speaking out about her care and the alleged negative results.

For 36-year-old Connie Tucker,  it’s the simple jobs like sweeping the kitchen floor that she struggles with, every hour of every day.

“I have to live the rest of my life without my arm,” Tucker said.

Last November, the Little Falls woman was hospitalized after suffering from a serious blood clot in her left arm. Eventually, the deteriorating medical condition led doctors to amputate the arm just above her left wrist.

Tucker was being treated in the St. Cloud Hospital, during which time she also developed a bacterial infection. On March 15, she was informed in a letter by the hospital’s president that she was among 23 patients inadvertently exposed to the bacterial infection.

The hospital admitted in the letter that the infection was the result of IV pain medication that had been compromised.

According to the hospital, a nurse had been stealing the drug by injecting needles into the drip bags and removing the drug. Saline solution was then squirted into the compromised bags to make it appear the bags were full.

“I ended up having a high fever and the doctor told my family that if they didn’t amputate above the elbow I would die, because I ended up getting septic,” Tucker said.

More of her arm was eventually removed above the elbow. Tucker suspects the infection led to the necessary amputation, however the hospital blames it on her body’s poor circulation.

Meantime, she and her husband struggle with her prosthetic arm a constant battle with phantom pains.

“The pain is so intense I have to go to the ER all the time and now I have to have surgery,” Tucker said.

The hospital has apologized to all 23 of the patients treated by the nurse and eventually infected by the tampered pain killer. But to Tucker’s husband, Scott, it’s little consolation to a life so changed.

“It’s the little things you don’t really think of. Braiding Montana, our daughter’s hair. ‘Ya know it’s those little things,” he said.

Tucker chokes back tears.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t cry and I wish I could get my arm back,” she said.

For the record, St. Cloud Hospital was asked to respond to Tucker’s statements. However, citing patient privacy, hospital management won’t go into detail.

A hospital spokesperson did release a short statement which reads:  “We (St. Cloud Hospital) stand by our previous statement that all of the 23 identified patients were successfully treated for their infection(s).”

The criminal investigation into the stolen drugs and spread of infection is continuing. The hospital nurse suspected of the wrongdoing remains suspended and has yet to be charged with any crime.

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Comments

One Comment

  1. Kathy says:

    THERE SEEMS TO BE A RUN ON ARM INFECTIONS BEING TREATED AT ST. CLOUD HOSPITAL THESE DAYS. TWO TENANTS IN MY APARTMENT BLDG WERE STRUGGLING WITH THE VERY SAME THING.

    WHY ISN’T THE CRIMINAL BEING CHARGED?

    SINCE THE NURSE WAS AN ACTING AGENT ON BEHALF OF THE HOSPITAL, LIABILITY FOR THESE INFECTED PATIENTS BELONGS TO THE ST. CLOUD HOSPITAL.

    IF IT’S NOT ONE THING THERE, IT’S ANOTHER.

    MY RECOMMENDATION TO CONNIE TUCKER WOULD BE TO HAVE THE MAYO CLINIC REVIEW ALL RECORDS, AND GET YOUR SECOND OPINION FROM THERE. I WOULD NOT RETURN TO THE HOSPITAL FOR FOLLOW-UP, AND REMEMBER THAT ABOTT NORTHWESTERN IS JUST DOWN THE ROAD.

    I STILL CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY CHARGES WERE NOT FILED. THE CRIME WAS COMMITTED TO EACH OF THE 23 PATIENTS., NOT AGAINST THE HOSPITAL ALONE.

    WHAT PROMPTED THE HOSPITAL TO FINALLY BECOME AWARE OF THE PROBLEM?

    IF THE AMPUTATION OCCURRED AS A RESULT OF THE NEGLIGENCE OR MISTREATMENT, MY GUESS IS THAT WHATEVER CAUSED THE PROBLEM WHICH LEAD TO THE AMPUTATION, TRACES OF THE CAUSE ARE STILL PRESENT, WHICH COULD BE REVEALED THROUGH CREDIBLE TESTING, I’M SURE.

    THIS ISN’T THE FIRST INCIDENT THAT I HEARD OF REGARDING A NURSE STEALING DRUGS FROM PATIENTS. A SAUK RAPIDS, MN NURSE WAS FOUND GUILTY OF THE SAME.

    IT MAY BE THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG, SO TO SPEAK. PEOPLE LIKE RATS AND MICE DO NOT TRAVEL ALONE.

  2. manny says:

    cut the nurse’s arm off.

  3. MN Mom says:

    While I feel bad for this woman, and the fact that she lost her arm above her elbow may have been a result of this incident, didn’t she originally lose her hand due to a blood clot? Had it stopped there (the incident hadn’t happened) she still would be experiencing much of the same issues. She still would not be able to sweep, braid her daughter’s hair, etc.

    I understand her angry and I would be angry too, however, is the loss of her hand due to the drugs being compromised or is the result the loss of her arm from wrist to above the elbow?

  4. preventive medicine says:

    This story leaves too much out. That is, can the bacteria found in bags cause sepsis? If not which I suspect to be the case, is she claiming that the bag also got some other bacteria into it that could cause sepsis. I believe this woman needs to speak to the CDC or an infections disease doc. Note that a lot of stories about the medical error rate nationally have been coming out and the first response from the Department of Health and Human Services was to initiative to reduce errors that cause infections. If this was a medical error, it may have nothing to do with the IV bags. Sadly it may be a systemic problem in U.S hospitals. which is why the CIA fact book lists the U.S.life-expectancy as slightly lower than Cuba and 64 other countries. Medical errors may not be the second most common reason for premature death. November of 2010 the OIG estimates that just among Medicare patients 15,000 people die per month. My prayers go out to this women and her family. The solution I believe is more physicians (we have half as many as most countries in Europe). Our medical staff are seeing too many patients at the same time. Many Minnesota hospitals have signed the President’s initiative to dramatically reduce hospital errors but not St. Cloud Hospital yet. I wonder they do. I hope the President also asks his health leaders to address the problem of health professional under-staffing. In most of Europe now physicians are paid for “achievable benefits” only and the amount of paperwork for each one patient per day is one page. We need to stop paying for paperwork and initiate a system that encourages high quality care.

  5. mare says:

    I think if she had a credible case, she would have called a lawyer… not a television news agency

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