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Kwiatkowski pleads guilty after exposing thouands to Hepatitis C

"It was all me. And I'm going to kill a lot of people out of this…I'm killing a lot of people."

Those were the unsettling words of the traveling hospital technician, David Kwiatkowski, who has been accused of and pled guilty to infecting what may end up being hundreds, or even thousands, of people with Hepatitis C before all is said and done. For over a decade, Kwiatkowski stole drugs to feed his painkiller addiction. He would inject them intravenously and the return the needles filled with either water or saline so as not to draw hasty attention. Once Kwiatkowski stayed in a hospital for a short period of time and wore out his welcome, he would then move on to the next.

Agreeing to a plea deal on 12 August, Kwiatkowski will be sentenced 14 August and will likely receive thirty to forty years in a federal penitentiary. Kwiatkowski has spent the last year and a month in jail after he was accused of stealing syringes containing fentanyl, a painkiller used for various reasons from post-operation to arthritis. The arrest came after an Exeter Hospital (New Hampshire) nurse noticed that the syringes she had recently stocked in the cardiac catheterization lab were gone. She noticed the next day that they had been returned and decided to report what had happened and have the vials tested. When the syringes were found to be tainted with his blood, Kwiatkowski was arrested. Kwiatkowski worked at 18 other hospitals in 7 different states–including Kansas, Michigan, Maryland, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and New York–before being hired at Exeter in 2011. He has agreed to plead guilty to 14 separate federal "drug theft and tampering" charges which could have earned him up to 98 years in prison if he had not been cooperative.

To date, there are thirty-two people in New Hampshire that have been diagnosed with the same strain of Hepatitis C carried by Kwiatkowski. There has also been a case in Pennsylvania (UPMC), seven cases in Maryland, and six in Kansas–where one of the victims has died due to the blood-borne viral infection's tendency to cause liver disease and chronic health problems. Officials say that Kwiatkowski's strain of Hepatitis C could eventually infect hundreds or thousands if it is not contained. So far, around eleven thousand people have been notified to be tested.

Another one of Kwiatkowski's victims, 71-year-old Linda Ficken of Kansas, has said that she is glad he pled guilty, but wishes that he got received the 98 years he had coming, or even a life sentence. "It should've been life," she said sternly, "since he gave us potentially a death sentence." Perhaps just as disgusted with Kwiatkowski, Ficken has also expressed her disdain for a system that has allowed a drug addict to move from hospital to hospital after being fired from previous employers over allegations of theft and drug abuse.

After his arrest, two of Kwiatkowski's past employers acknowledged that he had been fired over allegations involving drugs and/or theft. And after his preliminary testimony, it was found out that Kwiatkowski was fired from one Michigan hospital in 2004 after failing a drug test and was fired from another for gross misconduct. In addition, he "voluntarily" resigned from two more Michigan hospitals while under investigation for drug use.

Referred to as a "serial infector," Kwiatkowski's plea deal came to fruition after he admitted that regardless of the fact that he had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2010, he continued to swap out syringes he had used to inject himself with fentanyl. Kwiatkowski also admitted that he had been dealing drugs since 2002 and had swapped out syringes on at least 50 separate occasions in New Hampshire, at least 30 in Georgia, and at least 20 times in Kansas. Under the terms of his plea deal, Kwiatkowski will avoid criminal charges in Georgia and Kansas.

If you are concerned that you may have Hepatitis C or have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and think that it may have come from the Kwiatkowski strain, you can view a timeline of Kwiatkowski's employment history here. The disease can cause liver damage and other serious health problem. In some cases, as mentioned above, Hepatitis C can even be fatal. If you are at all concerned, seek medical attention immediately and speak to a trusted attorney at Dallas W. Hartman, P.C. to discuss your options.  

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