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Widow of former Chicago cop claims he got fungal meningitis from transplanted kidney

Updated: December 19, 2012 12:16PM



A retired U.S. Marshal and Chicago police officer died this spring after he received a transplanted kidney that was infected with fungal meningitis, his widow said.

Now Kathleen B. Murray, of Romeoville, wants to ask everyone involved with the transplant — doctors and nurses from the donor network and from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where Murray was hospitalized — what they knew about the kidney and when they knew it.

Gerald T. Murray Sr. died from the infection in May, about seven months after he received the donor kidney through the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network.

Gerald Murray, who worked in the Chicago Police Department’s Deering District on the South Side, was honored with a resolution by the Chicago City Council in June, after council members were notified of his death by Ald. Ed Burke.

In a petition filed in Will County court, Kathleen Murray claims that the donor agency should have discovered the kidney was infected before it was transplanted into her husband in October 2011. Loyola staff should have figured that out as well, Murray claims, and should have started treating his infection earlier than the last week of November 2011 to prevent his death.

Murray’s petition seeks information about the kidney donor, such as the donor’s medical records and autopsy report, and asks that medical staff testify about what they knew about the organ before it was transplanted.

Murray’s attorney, Theodore Bednarek, said he and Murray did not want to comment on the filing. Murray has not filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but has been appointed special administrator of her husband’s estate under the Wrongful Death Act.

Alison Smith, vice president of operations for Gift of Hope, declined to comment on Murray’s petition, but said the agency tests every organ for infections that are a known risk to the community, such as HIV and hepatitis.

“There are so many things that we could potentially test for, if we tried to test for every known disease we’d never get anyone transplanted,” Smith said.

“No matter what, when you’re transplanting an organ from one human being to another, there are things that cannot be known about the donor and there is always inherent risk involved in that circumstance for the recipient,” Smith said.

A spokeswoman for Loyola released a statement saying the hospital follows “strict protocols and procedures as required by organizations such as the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the Centers for Disease Control.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” the statement continued.

The case is scheduled to be in Will County court Dec. 7.

This fall, hundreds of people across the country were infected with fungal meningitis after they received tainted steroid injections produced by a Massachusetts company. The infection is rare, and usually caused by a fungus that spreads through the bloodstream to a person’s spinal cord, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



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