SWFL woman potentially exposed to rare infection


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — A 71-year-old woman recently found out she may have been exposed to a rare disease after undergoing open heart surgery at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton three years ago.

Port Charlotte resident Kathleen Burns has sought confirmation since receiving a letter from Blake that said she had been exposed to a sometimes deadly bacterial infection called Mycobacterium chimaera, or NTM. Burns, who’s felt ill since the surgery, called the hospital and eventually her primary care physician to schedule a test to confirm, but was passed from one doctor to another.

It can take months or even years for an infection to show, as it’s a slow-growing bacteria, making it difficult to diagnose, according to CBS News.

“Immediately when I read the symptoms, I said ‘Oh my God, I’ve got all of them,” Burns said. “This may be the key.”

Now, she feels helpless.

“After all my years of working in social work and helping people and now I’m at the end of my life and I cannot get any help,” Burns said. “It feels terrible.”

Burns said she’s doesn’t want to file a lawsuit; she only wants to get tested so she can regain her health.

“The fatigue is terrible,” Burns said. “I have trouble breathing. I have a persistent cough. I have muscle pain. I have pain in my chest. I have night sweats, weight loss, abdominal pain and nausea.”

Blake Medical Center released this statement in response to a WINK News request:

“To date, we are not aware of any patient developing this rare infection. We will continue to work with all patients to provide the support needed.”

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