Southern California

Widow Describes Loss After She Says Superbug Claimed Husband's Life

"I saw a good man in decline in front of my eyes and I couldn’t do anything to help him."

It’s already called an "urgent threat."

Concerns are brewing that "superbug" infections are far more extensive than we know, and local hospitals are not accurately reporting deaths due to these infections.

For the first time, Diana Olson -- now a widow -- tells NBC4 that she believes her husband is an uncounted victim of the superbug.

"I saw a good man in decline in front of my eyes and I couldn’t do anything to help him," Olson said. 

For more than 40 years they were inseparable.

"He was everything to me," Olson said. 

She describes her husband as a young 78-year-old in good health - until April of 2015.

"He suffered. That’s the hardest thing is that he suffered," she said.

Heart-broken and angry, Olson says she knows what killed her husband.

"The superbug infection destroyed him," she said. 

Superbugs are bacteria resistant to antibiotics. People are often infected in hospitals. 

In early 2015, two high profile superbug outbreaks surfaced in Southern California – one at UCLA Medical Center, and the other at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Both hospitals blamed the infections on contaminated endoscopes.

Family physician Dr. Michael Lewis says these instruments are critical in diagnosing and treating many diseases.

"It’s also just as important to have them as to have them properly cared for," Lewis said.

Endoscopes are long tubes inserted deep into the body to examine internal organs. One scope can be used inside multiple patients.

"We don't want to save a life and then get them sick," Lewis said.

In late March 2015, scope manufacturer Olympus issued an "urgent safety notification" announcing new cleaning procedures.

Less than a month later, Bob Olson was treated at Pasadena Endoscopy Center using the same type of Olympus scope.

"He got out of the car, he got sick, and that was three days after the procedure," Olson said.

Bob would spend most of the next four months at Huntington Hospital.

"Mr. Olson didn’t have to die," Attorney Brian Kabateck said.

Kabateck is representing Diana Olson in a civil suit against Huntington Hospital, Olympus and Pasadena Endoscopy Center.

"This is a case of of extreme negligence on behalf of the scope manufacturers and really questionable conduct on behalf of the facility," Kabateck said.

On Aug. 19, 2015, just four days before Bob died, Pasadena Public Health launched an investigation into Huntington Hospital after notification that three patients tested positive for a known strain of the superbug -- multi-drug resistant psuedomonos aeruginosa.

"They kept scoping him till the very end," Olson said.

A review of Bob Olson’s medical records show that same strain of superbug present in his body. 

"Why wasn’t the family advised? Why is it we, to this date, haven’t been advised?" Kabateck said.

There are thousands of deaths a year from drug-resistant bacteria, but medical experts agree no one has a full grasp of the threat.

"There’s a lot of blame to go around in this situation," Kabateck said.

The Food and Drug Administration just acknowledged hospitals, including Cedars-Sinai, UCLA Medical, and Huntington Hospital, are not accurately reporting cases of the deadly infection. The FDA itself admits it has not been enforcing reporting requirements.

Olson has tried to keep busy over the last year, but misses the man she calls "the most generous person she’s ever known."

When asked what she thought he would say if he could have a conversation with her today, Olson responded: "I love you, and I appreciate everything you did to save my life. I’m sorry it didn’t work, but I’m OK."

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