A Toledo family says a contaminated drug given during dialysis killed two loved ones -- just one month apart from each other. Leroy Hubley, Barbara Patton and Dawn Turk testified before Congress last Tuesday that the drug Heparin caused severe reactions in Bonnie and Randy Hubley -- and killed them.
"The same feelings were like, not Randy, too! We wouldn't be able to handle it. It was just unbelievable, the pain!" says Barbara Patton who lost her mother, Bonnie, and brother, Randy Hubley.
Leroy Hubley thinks back on losing his wife of 48 years. "Well, actually, it doesn't give me any reason to stay alive, really, except my two daughters," he says about his wife's and son's deaths.
Bonnie had been on dialysis at a west Toledo facility in late 2007. Each time she went through dialysis, Bonnie took Heparin, a blood thinning drug used by most dialysis patients.
"After one dialysis session in December, she fell gravely ill," her husband says.
"She told me, 'Happy Birthday' on the 17th because my birthday is on the 19th. And I asked her why she told me, 'Happy Birthday,' and she said just in case she didn't get to tell me," Barbara says.
At the hospital, Bonnie's blood pressure dropped dramatically. Leroy called the family to her bedside.
"He said, 'She's just fading away,'" Barbara says. The family then made the most difficult decision: to remove the breathing tube and end Bonnie's suffering.
The Hubleys didn't know what killed Bonnie, but their sorrow was far from over. Forty-seven-year-old Randy Hubley -- Leroy and Bonnie's son --was also on dialysis at the same west Toledo facility. Just three weeks after they buried Bonnie, Randy took a turn for the worse.
"He said something to me. He said, 'Do you believe in God?' and I said, 'Yes,' and he goes, 'Do you believe if I'm talking to mom that she can hear me?' and I said, 'Absolutely, I do believe that.' And he said, 'Good because I had a really nice conversation with her,'" says Randy's sister, Dawn Turk.
Randy went into cardiac arrest. Once again, the family rushed to the hospital.
"They were still giving him chest compressions. But I could see in his face that he was already gone," Barbara says.
Randy died on Jan. 15. In lawsuits filed in federal court in Toledo, Leroy Hubley and Randy's widow, Colleen, a dialysis nurse, claim the Heparin that caused the severe reactions in Randy and Bonnie was sold by Baxter Healthcare Corp., which makes Heparin and markets it in several states, including Ohio. According to those lawsuits and sworn testimony, the drug sold by Baxter contained crude Heparin that was made in China and was contaminated.
"Somebody has to take responsibility for this. There's too many deaths," Dawn says.
The family hired the Toledo law firm Zoll, Kranz and Borgess to represent them. The firm has filed a total of 15 lawsuits in federal court and is investigating 15 deaths, 11 of them here in Ohio.
The Hubleys' two lawsuits name as defendants Baxter and its parent company, Baxter International. Leroy's lawsuit also names as defendants Scientific Protein Laboratories, which it claims to have been Baxter's supplier, and Changzhou, the facility in China accused of supplying contaminated Heparin ingredients to scientific protein laboratories.
The lawsuits seek at least $75,000 each, but the family says it's not about the money.
"We want someone to tell us, to give us some sort of answers of how it could happen and how it's not going to happen anymore," Barbara says.
Johanna Staples, the widow of longtime radio personality Dennis Staples, also testified about her husband's death from what she told Congress was contaminated Heparin.
Dr. Kenneth Lempert, the medical director of dialysis for Toledo Hospital, says Heparin is not to blame but rather the people who contaminated it. He says Heparin will continue to be a lifesaver for dialysis patients.
Also, Baxter has recalled several lots of Heparin, and the FDA has stopped all imports from the Chinese company.
"I wouldn't be concerned because all the Heparin now that's coming in the country is being tested for that contaminant before it's released for the American market. So the problem no longer exists in this country," Lempert says.
The other members of the Hubley family who also have the kidney disease aren't convinced.
"I have two tubes that come out of my chest right here, and this is Heparin in the tubes," Dawn says, noting that she takes Heparin six days a week.
"Every time he gets that little Heparin bottle out, I make him recheck it, recheck it. I am a panicked mess thinking that they're going to put it in me and that's going to be the end of it," she says.