Woman who lost husband to fungal meningitis wants more regulation

(WXYZ) - Michigan tops the national list for the number of people affected by the meningitis outbreak with 112 people ill and seven deaths.

Nationally, according to the CDC, there are 404 illnesses and 29 deaths all linked to tainted steroid shots for back pain.

The medication causing it all was made by a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts where more contamination was uncovered earlier this week.

A Milan woman's husband died from fungal meningitis last month from a tainted injection.

Penny Laperriere now wants more regulation of pharmacies that handle medication without proper testing. It won't bring her husband back, but she hopes and prays it will prevent others from going through the same fate.

Penny met the love of her life 10 years ago on October 19. Never did she imagine she would be by his hospital bedside days before their wedding anniversary this year.

"We were never concerned he would die because there was still that hope that he was going to come home," said Penny.

Penny's husband Lyn was six days shy of his 62nd birthday.

After working for GM for 38 years, the passionate fan of racing and bowling was getting epidural shots for back pain. His last round came from the Massachusetts pharmacy under fire for tainted vials of medication. His freakish reaction began as a massive headache and only got worse.

"He had the heat turned up and he was just freezing," said Penny. "His headache was horrific. "

Thinking he had a bad case of the flu, Lyn didn't want to go to the hospital. But days passed and his health took a downward spiral.

"I was about 10 minutes away from home and he called me and says, ‘honey, I think I'm going to die; I'm in such pain'," said Penny.

Penny-- in a panic-- quickly turned around to race back home. She called 911 on the way, asking for an ambulance. When she arrived home, he was already loaded in the ambulance and his vital signs appeared to be OK, but when he arrived at the hospital doctors had no idea what was wrong.

Penny then saw a crawl go across the television that said meningitis outbreak. She feverishly typed 'meningitis outbreak' on her smart-phone and all of his symptoms pointed to fungal meningitis, but she says no one in the hospital would listen.

"I felt no one is taking me serious," said Penny.

Penny called the doctor who gave her husband the epidural shot for back pain, and he confirmed her greatest fear, that the vials used on Lynn had been recalled.

The doctor who gave him the shot warned Penny to have the doctors treating Lyn in the hospital to look for mold. Then, after two spinal taps, they began treating her husband with anti-fungal medications for the meningitis.

But, Penny says Lyn's tongue and lips started tingling and going numb. It was an allergic reaction to the medication. Penny says the doctors were kind compassionate and considerate, but admitted they didn't know how to treat it because it's never been done before.

Lyn was one of the very first Michigan patients to present with this fungal meningitis that is now an outbreak. His parents and sister came to visit Lynn with a birthday gift of his favorite songs.

"We all kissed him goodbye not knowing it was going to be the last time."

Penny left the hospital with family only to be called back by the doctor saying they could not resuscitate him.

"His arm was hanging down, so I just went to the bed-- I said, ‘you can't leave me'," said Penny.

Penny's husband was treated at Saint Joseph Mercy, but she insists the hospital did all they could and were very compassionate.

She is now among a group of families who have hired attorney Jeffrey Fieger to sue that Massachusetts pharmacy.
 

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