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Negative test delights Hays woman

8/11/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Dixie Horton received good news.

Two other Hays Medical Center patients were not so fortunate. They both have tested positive for a strain of hepatitis C consistent with that carried by a former contract worker at the hospital two years ago.

Horton, 76, received a letter dated July 20 informing her of possible infection, and urging her to be tested. She did so just days later, and found out the following day she did not have hepatitis C, a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver damage and chronic health problems.

"It's quite a surprise when I got the letter," Horton said in an interview from her Hays home last week. "I was happy it wasn't positive."

Horton, who is wheelchair-bound, suffers from diabetes and also had a stroke in recent years. But she had a matter-of-fact attitude about possibly getting the disease.

"I thought if it was something more, I would just deal with it," she said. "Nothing else you can do."

Her husband, Jerry, adopted the same attitude.

"Didn't get shook up about it or anything," he said.

Dixie Horton couldn't fathom the things David Kwiatkowski allegedly did at a hospital in New Hampshire. Kwiatkowski, 32, who worked as a contract technician at HaysMed in 2010, was arrested in New Hampshire July 19. While working at Exeter Hospital there, he allegedly stole drugs and contaminated syringes that were used on patients.

At least 30 patients at Exeter Hospital have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C Kwiatkowski carries.

"I can't understand him," Dixie Horton said. "I just don't understand people like that."

Dixie Horton also has no use for attorneys looking for clients as a result of what has happened.

"I said it's going to be a class-action (suit), and you're going to get nothing," she said, adding she received a letter from one law firm but threw it in the trash.

She did give high marks to HaysMed for its response once it found out patients could have been infected.

"I think they're handling it just right," Horton said.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Friday afternoon 476 HaysMed patients underwent procedures in the cardiac catheterization laboratory from May 24, 2010, to Sept. 22, 2010, the time of Kwiatkowski's employment at the hospital. As of Thursday, 334 have been tested, with 311 negative results and two positive results. KDHE said the remaining patients who have submitted blood specimens either are still being processed or have not completed epidemiologic review.