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She Wasnt Infected (interesting)
      #79899 - 01/05/04 08:02 PM

Mass. Woman Sues Over HIV Misdiagnosis

By KEN MAGUIRE, Associated Press Writer

BOSTON - A Fitchburg woman who received nine years of HIV
(news - web sites) treatments after she was misdiagnosed with the
virus is suing the doctors and clinics who treated her.
Audrey Serrano, 41, said she was diagnosed with the virus that
causes AIDS (news - web sites) in 1994 by the Family Practice
Clinic in Fitchburg, but six blood tests since Labor Day show she
does not have HIV. The lawsuit was filed Dec. 29 in Worcester
Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages.
"It's nice to not constantly feel like you're going to die, literally,"
she said. "I'm still tired a lot, though."
Serrano claims she's suffered a variety of physical ailments -
including colitis, an inflammation of the intestine - because of
AZT and other harsh medicines she took daily to fight the virus,
which attacks the immune system. Emotional distress led to
depression, she said.
In addition to the Family Practice Clinic (now called All Family
Care Inc.), the lawsuit names several doctors and clinics that
treated Serrano, including Dr. Kwan K. Lai, who works for
the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester;
Dr. Bonnie Laudenbach, who now works in Kentucky; and
Women's Medical Associates, formerly of Fitchburg.
UMass Memorial spokesman Mark L. Shelton said the hospital
did nothing wrong. The hospital has not been notified of the suit,
but received a letter from one of Serrano's attorneys alleging
negligence and "demanding 'the maximum amount of compensation
permitted by law,'" he said.
"These allegations are unfounded and UMass Memorial is
confident it would prevail should a suit actually be brought
and a full and objective review of the relevant records be
conducted," Shelton said in statement. "UMass Memorial
has not treated anyone for HIV who did not have HIV,
and there is no factual basis for reporting otherwise."

A call to All Family Care was not immediately returned. There
was no answer to calls to Laudenbach's office in Ashland, Ky.,
and there was no listing in Massachusetts for Women's Medical
Serrano's suit claims, among other things, that her providers
failed to periodically retest her to determine the accuracy of
the initial test.
Serrano, who is divorced and has a 13-year-old daughter
who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said she became suspicious
of her HIV-positive status just before Labor Day after obtaining
her medical records, and noticing the word "negative" beside a
long list of tests. She got retested.
"Part of me still didn't believe it, that's why I went for another
test," Serrano said. "I kept saying 'one more test.'"
She's unsure whether the test nine years ago was a false positive,
or if it was a record mix up. "It didn't hit me until I got to my car,"
she said. "I just sat in my car and a I cried. I was numb. I didn't
know what to feel."
Serrano, an alcoholic who had been sober for three years before
the HIV diagnosis, started drinking again. "I ended up totaling my
car," she said.
She spent 30 days in a women's prison in Framingham for
drunken driving.
Serrano celebrated nine years of sobriety on Nov. 9. She's
unemployed, but is studying to be a paralegal and does
AIDS outreach.
She said she still suffers side effects from taking more than 20 pills
daily for nine years. Bowel problems from colitis require frequent
trips to the bathroom, and her strength is limited, she said.
One of her attorneys, Ross Annenberg, said there's no specific
dollar figure they are seeking. That would be determined later,
he said.
"(Serrano) incurred great sums in medical expenses, lost significant
earnings, and has suffered diminished earning capacity in the future
as a direct and proximate result of the defendants' negligence," the
lawsuit states.
The defendants have about three weeks to respond to the suit.

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