Yakima daughter nearly died after Aspergillus infection, now permanently disabled

VIDEO: More Seattle Children's families seek legal action

The fallout continues with Seattle Children's after the hospital announced 14 kids have been infected with aspergillus mold.

Attorneys say more families are looking to take legal action.

A family in Yakima -- whose daughter got aspergillosis after a surgery at Seattle Children's Hospital in 2002 -- said the hospital should have taken steps to get this under control long before now.

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The Patnode family in Yakima spoke with CBS affiliate KREM about their experience. Shanna Patnode needed surgery in December of 2002 for a brain tumor. She was 12 years old at the time.

It went well and she was getting better. But then, she started experiencing severe back pain.

A biopsy found aspergillus mold inside her body.

"Her spinal cord was wrapped in a black sticky caulk-like material and that it had been identified as fungus," said Clarissa Patnode, her mom.

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Their family's attorney, John Layman, told KIRO7 that Shanna had to spend nine months after that in the hospital, and needed to be on antifungal medication for the next 10 years.

The Patnodes filed a lawsuit against Seattle Children's in 2005 and settled in 2008. But the mold left Shanna with permanent disabilities.

Now the family says to find out so many more families are now dealing with the same problem is tough to hear.

"They were withholding the truth," Shanna said.

"I'm just frustrated they haven't fixed the problem. I mean we gave it to them on a silver platter. And here it is again 16 years later. Why?" Clarissa said.

Layman said since Children's announced the extent of the problem earlier this week, five more families have reached out to him considering legal action.

He said the families are from states as far away as Alaska and Montana. He said they are families whose kids have died.

As for fixing the problem, the CDC told KIRO's Deedee Sun it's helping Children's, King County and the WA State Department of Health to figure out the best steps forward.

"It's a real challenge," said Dr. Tom Chiller, chief of the CDC's Mycotic Diseases Bureau over the phone. "We need to identify source, do our best to mitigate sources, and when you can, eliminate them," he said.

The CDC doesn't have agents in Seattle but has consulted many times with different local health organizations and Seattle Children's over the phone.

He said it's a good thing the hospital now has new air filters in their operating rooms.
              
"Filtrations, and especially HEPA filtration is very useful and should be employed," Chiller said.

But he said the spores are literally everywhere -- and more often than not, the source of the mold is just in the air

"We don't see an obvious source. And that's why these things are very challenging. Then we have to figure out, where is the outside air coming in?" Chiller said. "It's next to impossible to eliminate 100 percent," he said.

Children's is getting a new air handling system and is also examining the exterior of the hospital, in addition to getting HEPA filters in all its operating rooms. The 10 operating rooms will be closed until the end of January to get all the changes.