HEALTH NEWS
10/09/2012 07:53 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2012

George Cary, Whose Wife Died From Tainted Steroid Shots, Waits For Meningitis Test Results Of His Own

By Meghana Keshavan

HOWELL, Mich., Oct 9 (Reuters) - George Cary on Tuesday attended a memorial for his British-born wife Lilian Cary, one of 11 people who have died of meningitis after receiving injections of potentially tainted steroids.

Now he awaits the results of a spinal tap taken on Saturday to determine if he also has been infected with the disease.

Standing with his two daughters on the front lawn of their house in Howell, Michigan, Cary described his wife as "a little Brit" with "attitude and spunk."

She was answering emails, Skyping with her grandson and walking the halls of the hospital where she was being treated days before her death, he said.

George Cary was treated in September with the suspect medication, which had been linked to 119 cases of meningitis in 10 states by Tuesday.

Three people have died in Michigan, including Lilian, 67, and six deaths have been reported so far in Tennessee. One of the Tennessee victims was 80-year-old Reba Temple, a former director of a county health department.

George Cary said he wanted people to know Lilian, who was born in Stoke-on-Trent, England and moved to the United States in 1965, as more than a number or statistic.

"She had idiosyncrasies," he said. "Sometimes she had her own language. Words that would make us laugh, try to figure out what she meant and what she was talking about at times.

"But nonetheless, she was fiercely loyal to her friends and family. She was madly in love with her grandson and granddaughter."

Michigan health officials have identified about 1,900 people who received epidural injections of steroids from the suspected lots and have notified them, a spokeswoman said.

"I am standing here," Cary said with daughters Heather Andrus and Jill Bloser. "I'm fine right now. I'm waiting to see if anything develops."

Lilian received the suspect medication in early August as part of a regular treatment for chronic back problems. She started suffering weakness, fever, chills and sleepiness in the third week of August, Cary said.

She was evaluated for a possible underlying lung infection, but the fever and weakness persisted and on Sept. 21 she was admitted to the University of Michigan hospital, where she was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, he said.

She appeared to be improving with intravenous antibiotics, anti-viral and steroid medications, but became unresponsive on Sept. 25, he said. Doctors determined two days later that she had suffered a massive stroke. She died Sept. 30.

In Tennessee, Hickman County residents were mourning the death of Temple, a former director of the county's health department who died on Saturday, said county trustee Cheryl Chessor.

"She was a very nice lady and we're very sad about it," said Chessor, who attended the same church, Centerville Church of Christ. "Our community is very sad."

Some 13,000 people nationwide received the injections and are at risk of contracting meningitis, the Centers for Disease Control has said. Most will not get the disease, it said.

One of the lucky ones was Melissa Stevens, 39, a fitness instructor, competitor and weight-loss coach in Minnesota. She was notified on Friday that her mid-August injection for pain from an auto accident might have come from the suspect batch, but a spinal tap test was negative.

"I didn't know it was going to be that intense," Stevens said of the spinal tap. "They said it is going to be like an IV. ... It hurts a little bit more than that.

"It's way better than having meningitis, so I will take what I can get," she said. (Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, Tim Ghianni in Nashville and Ryan Felton in Detroit; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)

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