11 brain surgery patients at risk for fatal disease - FOX Carolina 21

11 brain surgery patients at risk for fatal disease

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Greenville Memorial Hospital is one of GHS's main campuses, located on Grove Road in Greenville. (File/FOX Carolina) Greenville Memorial Hospital is one of GHS's main campuses, located on Grove Road in Greenville. (File/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Eleven Upstate brain surgery patients were put at risk for acquiring a fatal brain disease that affects only one in a million.

The Greenville Hospital System said they've told patients who were operated on in February that the same tools used for their surgeries were used on a patient doctors later found had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD.

In a statement, GHS said they always clean their tools according to U.S. standards, but they didn't use the additional sterilization CJD because they hadn't known until later that one of their patients had it.

The release said they have since told each of the 11 who had surgeries in February, who may have been exposed, including Clare Faza. Her husband of 45 years, Edwardo Faza, said Clare Faza had always been healthy until she fell on Feb. 25, and doctors operated on her brain.

Since then, she's been a nursing home, barely able to communicate. Edwardo Faza says he's nervous, because has no idea how anyone would know if his wife got the disease through surgery.

"In her condition, I don't know if she can take it. I mean, if my wife was talking... and she was responding, I would leave it up to her. You understand? But in this condition, I don't know what to say," said Edwardo Faza.

He spoke with doctors on July 13 and then received a letter describing what they had discussed in brief.

"Please know that the Greenville Hospital System stands ready to provide her with all reasonable and appropriate treatment, at no cost to you, if she is diagnosed by biopsy with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease," the letter read.

Edwardo Faza said he's still not heard back from the hospital and doesn't know much of what is going on, aside from what he researched online.

"Already I'm worried about what happened the first time, and now they throw this on top," said Edwardo Faza.

CJD is like a very fast-acting dementia. It causes the brain to shut down, which eventually leads to a body shutdown. The National Institutes of Health, NIH, said it happens most often in people over 65. NIH said it's caused by an abnormal protein and is usually caused sporadically. Sometimes it's genetic, and fewer than 1 percent of cases are acquired, like this would be, if someone gets it.

That concept of rare possibility is what GHS stressed in its letter to Edwardo Faza.

In GHS's release, Dr. Thomas Diller, vice president of quality and patient safety, said, "This is a very unusual event. After a full assessment and discussion with the CDC, we believe the risk of transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease to any patient is extremely small."

Biopsies and autopsies are the only way to know for sure if someone has it, but there may be symptoms everything from a change in the way someone walks to confusion, hallucinations, muscle stiffness or twitching and sleepiness.

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