In April, Christina Mecannic donated a kidney to her partner of 21 years, Michael Yocabet. It turned out that kidney was infected with Hepatitis C and now Yocabet has the illness.
"I feel like I've caused more damage, I don't feel like I've helped him, and that is the hardest thing I have to live with," said Mecannic as she choked back tears during a news conference where she announced she and Yocabet are suing UPMC, four doctors and a nurse.
Mecannic did not know she had Hepatitis C, but a test done before the transplant showed she was infected, said the couple's lawyer, Harry S. Cohen. The test results are in Mecannic's records that, according to the suit, were reviewed by several UPMC staff members and doctors.
"Anyone with a basic medical education or knowledge could have seen this Hepatitis C," said Cohen, "the test results were there when the transplant committee met, they were there every time that Mike [Yocabet] showed up for an appointment, and yet the transplant took place."
The suit does not specify what damages the couple is seeking. It is asking for a jury trial.
"For reasons that we intend to find out in this lawsuit, an environment had been created that permitted error, after error, after error," said Cohen. The suit notes that UPMC makes millions of dollars from its transplant program and hints that doctors and administrators may be under too much pressure to perform the procedures.
The case was investigated by the United Network for Organ Sharing and the US Department of Health and Human Services. Those investigations caused UPMC to shut down its live organ donor program for more than two months.
"I couldn't believe something like that could have really happened to me," said Yocabet. "I was angry for a while."
Yocabet has been dealing with childhood diabetes for more than 30 years. That illness is responsible for his kidney problems.
Neither Yocabet nor Mecannic have any Hepatitis C symptoms at this time. Mecannic said she is unable to return to work as a licensed practical nurse in a nursing home until she is treated. She describes that treatment as grueling. Yocabet said he cannot be treated for Hepatitis C because it will "kill his kidney."
Mecannic tested negative for Hepatitis C less than a year before going through the donor matching process where her infection was found. She said she thinks she picked up the illness while working. "It's just one of the hazards of the job," said Mecannic.