Martin is one of five cases in a recent outbreak of Legionnaires' disease among patients treated at UW Medicine. Her case was reported on Aug. 26; another woman who died on Aug. 27 was found to have a Legionella infection during an autopsy; reports of a 50-year-old man with the disease surfaced on Sept. 6 and he died on Sept. 8; the case of a man in his 40s was reported on Sept. 16; and the latest case of a woman in her 50s was reported on Sept. 25.
"The past decade of my life has been consumed by heart failure, which I've fought hard to overcome," Martin said. "Now, just when I've been blessed to receive the gift of life through a transplant, it's unimaginable to run head-on into something preventable like Legionnaires' disease."
Media reports suggest that Martin's Legionella infection could have been caused by any number of known transmission points. Experts have found Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires' disease, in an ice machine and sinks in the medical center's Cascade Tower, where Martin stayed as an inpatient.
In addition, three CardioQuip machines used to heat and cool patients during heart surgery also tested positive for Legionella. Physicians used a heating-cooling machine during Martin's heart transplant, but it is not yet clear whether it was one of those infected with the bacteria.
By filing a claim form, Martin is launching a mandatory 60-day waiting period before she can file a lawsuit against UW Medicine, a public institution. The notice will allow UW Medicine to further investigate what happened.
"We are working to uncover the truth – whether a medical device was involved, whether UW Medicine followed protocol for sterilization and cleaning, and whether the device manufacturer was aware of the issue," said Ralph Brindley of Luvera Law Firm, the attorney representing Martin. "We don't know why care providers and manufacturers can't keep these infection breweries out of the operating room, but we're going to find out."
A resident of Vancouver, Wash., Martin experienced total heart failure when she was 21, and began using an artificial heart pump two years prior to her heart transplant. After she became eligible for a transplant, her care team found a match relatively quickly – but the results of that transplant have unfortunately been mixed, at best. In addition to her infection, Martin became blind in one eye as a result of the transplant, unrelated to the Legionnaires' disease. She continues to receive care at UW Medicine.
"Victoria is an exceptionally strong person, and the fight of her life will continue," Brindley said. "Sadly, she's not alone – her experience serves as a warning to patients and providers that hospital-acquired infections are an ongoing threat, and the industry needs to dramatically increase its safety measures."
About Luvera Law Firm:
Luvera Law Firm is a nationally recognized firm, with high standards of ethical conduct. The firm specializes in medical malpractice, brain injury, death and other major damage cases, and seeks justice for clients as well as positive changes in corporate and governmental behavior. Find more at: www.luveralawfirm.com
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SOURCE Luvera Law Firm