Family: Florida meningitis victim 'just loved life'
Published: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.
He was a vibrant 83. He traveled, played golf, participated at church, breakfasted with old buddies.
“This was a man who just loved life and loved to go,” is how one relative put it.
Then one day last month, out of the blue, he fell ill. In and out of the hospital. Tests and more tests. No answers.
By the time he died Thursday, the doctors had it pegged. The Marion County man had contracted fungal meningitis after receiving a shot of tainted pain medication — one of 15 people nationwide to die in this unusual outbreak.
The names of the man, as well as the relative who spoke to the Star-Banner, are withheld to protect the family’s privacy at this time.
The 83-year-old man had been a patient at the Marion Pain Management Center for 10 years. He received a shot of methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid used to treat back pain, in the first week of September.
It was the first time in more than a year he had received such a shot.
About 10 days or two weeks after receiving the shot in early September, the man started exhibiting odd symptoms. At one point he couldn’t even stand up.
“They (doctors) didn’t know...They were testing for a lot of things,” the relative said during an interview Saturday morning. “They were trying all kinds of different things.”
Relatives visited to help with his care. He was hospitalized, sent home, hospitalized again.
Eventually, the family read a Star-Banner story and heard broadcast reports about contaminated medicine distributed by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Massachusetts. Officials started notifications in multiple states.
Everyone put two and two together. But nothing could be done. He died Thursday at Ocala Regional Medical Center.
Six clinics in Florida — including three in Marion County — received tainted vials, and 775 doses were injected into patients statewide.
State and local officials, along with the affected clinics themselves, are scrambling to notify all patients who received the tainted shots. Marion County’s hospitals have tested, observed — and sometimes even admitted — patients who could be affected.
Meantime, the number of confirmed cases continues to grow. Saturday morning, the state reported that a 47-year-old Escambia County man had a confirmed case of fungal meningitis linked to the tainted medicine.
The man became Florida’s 10th infected patient — and the first from outside Marion County.
There are 197 confirmed cases overall, including 15 deaths, in 14 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Two of those deaths were in Marion County: The 83-year-old man who died Thursday, and a 70-year-old man who died in July. The latter man’s doctor maintains the state is wrongly linking the death to the fungal meningitis outbreak.
Jim Ross can be reached at 671-6412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jimross96. Use the hashtag #meningitis for continuing updates on the nationwide outbreak.
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