By Kate O’Reilley Editions: ebook, paperback Published: Published January 14th 2013 by Quandary Publising Genre: Adult Medical/Legal Thriller
It’s Nothing Personal chronicles anesthesiologist, Dr. Jenna Reiner, who was blindsided on a January morning by an incident that would forever change her life. A scrub technician at her hospital was stealing narcotics from anesthesiologists, injecting those same narcotics into her veins, and returning the contaminated syringes, knowing they would be used on patients. The scrub tech was infected with hepatitis C, a deadly virus.
Unknowingly, anesthesiologists at St. Augustine Hospital were injecting their patients with hepatitis C laden syringes. When Dr. Jenna Reiner administered anesthesia, she was holding a murder weapon in her hands. Dr. Reiner was about to find out that not only was her hospital at risk, but her entire life was about to be turned upside down. The scrub tech’s addiction evolved into a public health scare. Unfortunately, on that fateful day, Dr. Reiner and her patient fell victim to an addict.
The ensuing medical malpractice suit filed by Allison Anders, a ruthless attorney, becomes a battle for survival for Jenna and her family. For Dr. Reiner, the lawsuit is personal. Jenna Reiner faces more demons than she thought imaginable as she fights against greed, brutality, accusations, and a corrupt legal system. Will Dr. Reiner prevail? Or will the system win? Inspired by true events, IT’S NOTHING PERSONAL is a story of endurance and pain beyond imagination.
From CHAPTER 1:
January 20, 2010
Dr. Jenna Reiner’s Land Rover fishtailed as she turned into the parking lot of St. Augustine Hospital, nearly striking a cement post. Inside the relative safety of the parking garage, she felt relieved to have finally escaped the icy roads. Little did Jenna know, things would have been much simpler if she would have had the good fortune to slide off the road and into a ditch on her drive to the city. Unfortunately, life dealt her a different fate. She arrived safely at work and began the day that would change her life forever.
Upon opening the door to OR 2, Jenna was chilled by the familiar, yet always unpleasant, draft of frigid air that emanated from the operating rooms. The Talking Heads’ song, “Once in a Lifetime,” blared from the operating room speakers. The lyrics somehow seemed appropriately matched to her mood.
Inside the operating room, Hillary, the scrub tech, and Rebecca, the circulating nurse, were busy counting surgical equipment. Hillary, dressed in a sterile surgical gown and gloves, fingered each item as Rebecca stood by and checked them off from her count sheet. Jenna walked in to hear Hillary identifying each item on her table, “Ten ray techs, five laps, two blades, one hypo . . .”
The women paused when they saw the doctor enter the room.
Rebecca spoke over the music. “Dr. Reiner, I just wanted to let you know that Dr. Hoover’s caught in traffic, and she’s going to be at least thirty minutes late.”
“Rebecca, you’re a life saver,” Jenna said as she smiled underneath her mask and slowed down her hectic pace. She made her way past the tray of surgical devices and toward the head of the operating room bed, where her equipment and medications were located. Clumsily, she wedged her briefcase into the only crevice not taken up by anesthesia gear. Jenna then devoted her attention to performing her routine check of the ventilator, monitors, and equipment. Like a prima ballerina performing on stage, she floated through her routine.
During Jenna’s preparations, she discreetly reached into her bag and pulled out a Diet Pepsi. Rebecca caught sight of Jenna’s indiscretion and glared at her, but the doctor knew better than to take Rebecca’s feigned scorn seriously. Looking Rebecca directly in the eye, mocking innocence, Jenna asked, “What?” Then, defiantly, she opened her forbidden soda. The cracking of the metal tab and the small explosive release of carbonation resonated throughout the room. Rebecca shook a disapproving finger at Jenna, but the twinkle in her eyes indicated otherwise.
Hillary winked at Jenna and said, “Hey, Doc, we’ve all got our vices. Your secret’s safe with us.”
Thrown off guard by Hillary’s gesture, Jenna blushed and quickly turned her back on the scrub tech.
Rebecca and Hillary resumed their count, and Jenna was ready to check out narcotics for her first patient. She stepped in front of the Accudose machine, entered her personal identification code on the keyboard, and pressed her index finger over the red, illuminated biometric sensor. After confirming a fingerprint match, the automated machine came to life.
Rebecca scurried off to meet the patient, leaving Jenna and Hillary alone in the operating room.
For several minutes, both Hillary and Jenna quietly went about their respective tasks. The silence made Jenna uneasy. She barely knew Hillary, who was relatively new to St. Augustine. They had worked together only a few times. While Jenna had to concede the newcomer always conducted herself professionally in front of the surgeons, she also saw an element of “white trash” in the scrub tech. Hillary had bleach-blonde hair with black roots, brown eyes encircled with heavy eyeliner and mascara, and an excess of tattoos and facial piercings. However, her impression was based upon more than Hillary’s physical appearance. Hillary’s manners were unrefined. She pictured Hillary more as a bartender in a seedy watering hole than as a healthcare professional. If Jenna had to choose two words to describe the scrub tech, they would be “dark” and “scrappy.” Hillary had the air of someone who had lived a hard life.
There was something else about Hillary that put Jenna on edge. She had not noticed it until the two of them were alone. Jenna had a disconcerting feeling that Hillary was watching her. Yet, every time Jenna glanced at Hillary, the scrub tech was looking in another direction. The sense of paranoia made Jenna feel foolish.
Jenna moved over to her anesthesia cart. Per her routine, Jenna took all of her syringes, opened the bottom drawer of her anesthesia cart, and concealed them in a bin beneath bags of intravenous fluid. After stashing her medications, Jenna took one last glance around to make sure everything was in order for the start of her first case. Satisfied, she grabbed her stethoscope and headed out of OR 2.
By the time Jenna walked out of the operating room, Hillary had already ripped off her sterile surgical gown and threw it into the waste bin.
Jenna could not shake the eerie feeling she got from being alone with Hillary. The woman conveyed a sense of danger.
Hillary was finally alone in the operating room. Unfortunately, Jenna’s suspicions were correct. The scrub tech had been secretly watching Jenna as she hid her drugs and knew exactly where to look. Hillary opened the bottom drawer and lifted the bags of IV fluid. Immediately, she found what she craved. She plucked the 5 cc syringe filled with clear fluid and labeled with a blue “Fentanyl” sticker from the pile of other medications. Slipping two fingers into her breast pocket, Hillary pulled out an identically labeled syringe filled with saline. Swapping one syringe for the other, she covered the drugs, and closed the drawer of the anesthesia cart. Everything was exactly as Jenna had left it. Hillary smiled as she headed to the locker room. “
The Story Behind It’s Nothing Personal
What is the difference between a mid-life crisis and a life-changing revelation? I suppose it all comes down to whether the endeavor is a success or a flop.
When I was young, I was lost. My main goal in high school was to find out where the best party was going to be held over the weekend. After high school, I entered college, lasted a week, and dropped out. My parents bit their nails down to the quick. For a year, I stumbled along. I was a receptionist, until I told my supervisor to take a hike, left for lunch, and never came back. In my defense, she was an egotistical, awful woman. I also taught aerobics. Yep, back in the 80s, in a thong leotard with leg warmers. It’s a wonder I survived.
After that year, I knew I needed to grow up. I went back to school and buckled down. To everyone’s shock, I achieved a 4.0 GPA. At some point, I decided to go to medical school. It was hard to imagine – the lower-middle class girl from a family where no one had yet graduated from college – pursuing something as lofty as medical school. As it turns out, when I feel like people doubt me is when I perform at my best. Getting into medical school was no different. My top-ranked school accepted me by early admission.
For eight years, I devoted myself to the rigors of medical school and then residency. I graduated in December 2000 and have been in private practice ever since. I had it all – a successful medical career, a loving husband, and a beautiful daughter. Then, in 2008, my world came crashing down. For the first time in my career, I was sued for medical malpractice.
Kristen Parker, a scrub technician employed by Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado was doing the unthinkable. Allegedly, she was stealing syringes of fentanyl from anesthesiologists’ carts, injecting the powerful intravenous narcotic into herself, refilling the used syringes with saline, and replacing them in our carts. She knew she was positive for hepatitis C, and she knew the syringes would be used on innocent, vulnerable patients.
It took the hospital nearly nine months before they finally detected her crimes and terminated her employment. By then, untold damage had been done. Every patient who had surgery during that time period was thought to be at risk. In all, 4700 patients were screened for the disease. Over two dozen were found to be positive for a strain for hepatitis C that was genetically linked to that of Kristen Parker. Unfortunately, one of those patients had been under my care.
Eventually, I was sued for medical malpractice. For over two years, I lived in a state of relentless anxiety, apprehension, and despair. Of course I felt awful that anything untoward had happened to a patient under my care. But as the litigation process evolved, my initial feelings of grief were overcome by anger, humiliation, isolation, and helplessness. I found myself in a ruthless world filled with public accusations and never-ending assaults on my integrity.
When the suit finally ended, my friends and family encouraged me to write. There were so many instances during the ordeal where truth was indeed stranger than fiction. I heeded their advice. From my turmoil, the words poured from my soul. It’s Nothing Personal is a work of fiction, but the emotion is all too real.
Writing this novel has been one of the most critical events of my life. As was the case with medical school, I don’t think anybody really thought I could write an entire book. Not only did I write a novel, I wrote a novel that readers enjoy. Every praising review feels like one of the A’s I got in college. Maybe now, history will repeat itself. It took me 43 years to discover my passion. I love writing. I’ve never felt this way about anything else. So, is this a mid-life crisis or a life-changing revelation? The jury is still out, but I’m hopeful for a favorable verdict.
About the Author & Links:
Kate O’Reilley, 43, is an author and practicing physician, specializing in anesthesiology. She is a native of Colorado, where she has lived most of her life with the exception of a brief stay in Washington state and three years on the island of Oahu. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter and staying active. Her heart and soul belong to the Hawaiian islands, where she hopes to retire and write full time.