A Hendersonville woman said she is both frightened and angry weeks after getting a steroid injection at a Saint Thomas pain clinic that has seen several of its patients contract a rare form of meningitis.
Laurie, who didn't want to be identified by her last name, said she only found out about the possible danger of fungal meningitis related to the lumbar epidural steroid injections given at Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center after watching the news.
Thirteen patients who received the injections at the clinic between July 30, 2012, and Sept. 20 have contracted the rare, non-contagious form of meningitis, and two of them have died. It is suspected the steroid medication may be the cause of their cases.
Laurie received the steroid injection Sept. 18 on the advice of her doctor, because she suffers from sometimes debilitating lower back pain.
"I have two bulging discs. They sit on a main nerve that runs through my leg. They wanted to go in and put this steroid in that nerve," Laurie said.
Then, on Sept. 27, Laurie suddenly received a call from the pain clinic. She thought it was a follow up, but said the call was not what she expected.
"They wanted to know if I was having any kind of symptoms. They never mentioned meningitis, never mentioned two people passing away from it, that others came down with it," Laurie said.
Laurie said it became clear to her four days later that it was more than a follow-up call.
"And then I find out on the news yesterday this is why they called, because of the outbreak of meningitis," she said.
Laurie said she was upset she had to learn of the frightening news through the news rather than directly from the clinic and worries other people who could be affected might not know.
Fungal meningitis can be especially difficult to diagnose, and worse yet it can be tough to treat.
"Early identification is very important. And we believe the earlier the people are identified and treatment begins, the better outcome they're likely to have," said Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner.
Ultimately, time will tell how widespread the meningitis cases could become. The FDA recalled the steroid in question, but the CDC has not yet definitively pinpointed that as the source of the infection.
The Saint Thomas clinic voluntarily shut down and will not reopen until the Tennessee Department of Health and CDC are confident the problems have been resolved.
If you have any questions or concerns, call the state health hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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