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Brother of brain disease victim speaks out

Thursday, September 05, 2013, 6:28pm
(NECN: Lauren Collins, Manchester, N.H.) - It didn't take long for Bob Blodgett's sister to disappear in the clutches of Creutzfeldt-Jakob's Disease.  

"It was eight weeks from the day she was diagnosed ‘til the day she died," he says.

That was in 1999, and since then, he's worked to understand more about the horrific condition that families of the afflicted call dementia in fast forward.  

"They don't know what they're doing, they don't know who they are.  She said she had to go to the bathroom, you'd take her to the bathroom, she opens up (the door), she wants to know what that is for," he says recalling Shirley.  
     
Eight patients at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester may have been exposed to the mysterious and deadly disease via contaminated surgical instruments. The hospital notified them after a patient died of sporadic CJD last month.  

"This is a perfect storm of uncertainty. It's a rare disease that nobody's heard of, it's a disease that usually is not going to be transmitted in circumstances like these," says Dr. Tim Lahey, who chairs the bio-ethics committee at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.  
     
Nobody's sure how CJD develops and it only shows symptoms in its end stages; which is why doctors at CMC couldn't know the patient of origin had it when he had a cyst removed back in May. In fact, the hospital won't know get a truly positive diagnosis until autopsy results come back four weeks from now. CMC could have waited until then to notify the eight others.  

Dr. Tim Lahey says either choice is controversial.

"It's a gut level decision it just, it feels right to let people know, to let them have all the facts and give them guidance," he says.

Each of the potentially exposed patients now has a case worker to offer that guidance. But as Blodgett knows, there are many more questions than answers when it comes to CJD.

"What activates it?  Could be in your system 35, 40 years. What causes it to grab on and kill ya instantly, almost?"
     
Public health officials stress that, although significant, the case at CMC poses no public health threat.
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