She went to a Davis County emergency room in October 2011 with chest pain, concerned she may have pneumonia.
After being admitted, Karen Samulski was given a mix of painkillers, sedatives and anti-nausea medication through an IV.
What Samulski didn’t know then was that her nurse, Elet Neilson, had likely injected herself with some of the medication before giving the rest to her patient.
Four years would pass before Samulski received a letter from Davis Hospital and Medical Center saying the nurse may have exposed her to hepatitis C. And in December 2015, Samulski tested positive for the same rare genotype 2b strain that Neilson has.
Samulski went through daily treatments for the infection — which left her nauseous, her fingers numb and her body tired.
She is one of at least 15 patients who Utah Department of Health officials believe was infected while being treated at two northern Utah hospitals.
Samulski on Thursday sued Davis Hospital, alleging the hospital did not do enough to protect patients from an employee who was stealing drugs.
The lawsuit, filed in 2nd District Court, alleges that hospital officials failed to guard against theft, failed to investigate Neilson’s drug theft in a timely manner and failed to properly supervise the nurse. The hospital also failed to properly notify Samulski that she had been exposed to the infection, according to the lawsuit, which created a risk of spreading it to others.
Samulski’s attorney, G. Eric Nielson, said Friday that he believes hospital staffers likely knew the nurse was stealing drugs, but never reported it.
“The odds of the hospital not getting some warning signs when a nurse is engaging in this type of behavior is very low,” he said.
The attorney says they believe Neilson was injecting herself with doses of painkillers before injecting a patient with the remaining amount in a syringe. In Samulski’s case, Neilson’s nursing chart was amended several times with notations that the drug amounts had been recorded on the wrong patient’s chart, according to the lawsuit.
A spokeswoman for the hospital did not immediately comment on the lawsuit, saying she had not seen the filing.
Samulski is asking for an undislosed amount in monetary damages, including punitive damages.
Neilson, who has also gone by the name Elet Hamblin, is facing federal charges in connection to the hepatitis C outbreak. She was indicted last year on more than a dozen charges of tampering with a consumer product and fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance. A three-day trial is expected in September.
Health officials believe Neilson may have exposed as many as 7,200 patients to the hepatitis C genotype 2b strain. Of those patients, roughly 4,800 were treated at Ogden’s McKay-Dee Hospital — where Neilson worked from June 2013 to November 2014 — and 2,369 were at Davis Hospital and Medical Center, in Layton, where Neilson worked between 2012 and 2014.
Neilson has admitted to taking drugs from her employer while working at both hospitals, according to Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing records. She surrendered her nursing license in November 2015, a month after health officials began offering free testing to the thousands of patients who came into contact with her at the hospitals and were given certain medications.
At least one other Utah law firm had planned to sue the hospitals and Neilson for the outbreak. Attorneys with the firm Feller and Wendt said in 2016 that they had 160 clients — seven of them who have tested positive for hepatitis C — who wanted to pursue a class action lawsuit.
Attorney Thaddeus Wendt on Friday said his firm is planning to file a separate lawsuit soon against Davis Hospital.