TWO PENN HEALTH SYSTEM HEART
PATIENTS, BOTH INFECTED WITH A LIFE-THREATENING BACTERIA DURING
THEIR OPEN-HEART SURGERIES, GO TO COURT FOR ANSWERS AND
Philadelphia, PA (January 26, 2017) - A New Jersey school board
member, and a Pennsylvania electrical engineer, had little in
common before they each underwent open-heart surgery at the
Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania. However, now Marisa
Karamanoogian and Robert Gerngross are linked by the fact,
according to their separate but related court filings, they both
contracted a well known, potentially lethal bacterial infection
during their operations.
Ms. Karamanoogian, 39, a member of the Delanco, NJ, School
Board, and Robert Gerngross, 60, an Erdenheim, PA electrical
engineer-contractor, are represented by trial attorneys from Saltz,
Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, P.C. (SMBB), in their search
for answers and justice after suffering serious, life-altering
injuries resulting from the infection identified several years ago
by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/heater-cooler.html)
as Nontuberculous Mycobacterium (NTM).
Michael F. Barrett, of SMBB, said his firm recently began the
civil litigation process on January 13th in the
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas by filing on behalf of
the plaintiffs writs of summons and pre-trial discovery motions
that initially names as defendants the health system and the
clinical practices of Penn Medicine. "We are asking the Court to
help us, on behalf of our clients, fully determine exactly who was
involved, their level of knowledge, what equipment they were using,
and precisely how they could have exposed the patients to an
infection that has now been traced to the deaths of at least six
other open-heart surgical patients under what appear to be similar
if not identical circumstances."
He added, "Our clients want and need to know why they were never
told they were at risk, and they're also concerned that what
happened to them can still happen to others." Mary T. Gidaro, Esq.,
of SMBB, is Mr. Barrett's co-counsel in both cases.
Government officials estimate more than 600,000 patients
nationally may have been exposed to the infection strongly believed
to be associated with the heater-cooler units used during surgery
to control the temperature of the blood and organs.
SMBB provided additional information regarding its two clients
and the ongoing impacts of the infection:
- Ms. Karamanoogian, married and the mother of three (ages 10,
15, 17), underwent cardiac bypass surgery at HUP on February 5,
2016, and was diagnosed with NTM about six weeks later, after
complaining of severe pain and fatigue. Several surgeries followed
to try to eradicate the infection, and she remains on a variety of
IV-administered antibiotics. A human resources administrator for an
area business, her permanent physical injuries include partial
hearing loss, and she also suffers from anxiety and depression
associated with the condition.
- Mr. Gerngross, on February 6, 2015, had aorta heart valve
replacement surgery at Penn's Presbyterian Medical Center.
The new mechanical valve replaced a defective aorta valve he had
from birth. Fifteen months later he became symptomatic for NTM and
was placed on IV antibiotics, and then in December had replacement
heart valve surgery. The removed mechanical valve tested positive
for NTM, but the father of three (ages 31, 30, 7) is still
lethargic and often short of breath, and unable to resume
In the filed notices for pre-trial discovery, the attorneys are
asking the court to permit them to move forward with a series of
vital questions to the health system to pinpoint, for example, the
type and manufacturer of the heater-cooler units that were used and
their operating and maintenance history.
Ms. Karamanoogian stated, "I live with the physical and
emotional scars from my surgery every minute of every day; at work,
at home, and in my public service role. I'm thankful to be alive
and to what we can do to help prevent other surgical patients from
Mr. Gerngross added, "You can't imagine being in worst shape
after heart surgery than when you went into the hospital. But
that's what happened in my case and I can't stand knowing that the
hospital knew but never told me there was a chance I could get NTM.
We must find out how this could have possibly happened so it
doesn't happen again."
Note: The cases are filed as: Karamanoogian: CCP
PhilaCo., January Term 2017, No. 01912; and Gerngross: CCP
PhilaCo., January Term 2017, No. 01914
Michael F. Barrett / firstname.lastname@example.org
Steph Rosenfeld / email@example.com