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August 23, 2014

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Man recounts hepatitis C’s effect on health, family

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Steve Marcus

Robert Eglet, left, speaks with his client, Meadows headmaster Henry Chanin, during a trial in District Court Monday, April 26, 2010. Chanin is suing drug companies in the first trial linked to the hepatitis C outbreak in the Las Vegas Valley.

Updated Monday, April 26, 2010 | 6:12 p.m.

Endoscopy Trial Testimony

Carolyn Goodman, president and founder of the Meadows School and wife of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, testifies on behalf of Meadows Headmaster Henry Chanin during a trial in District Court Monday, April 26, 2010. Chanin is suing drug companies in the first trial linked to the hepatitis C outbreak in the Las Vegas Valley. Launch slideshow »

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Henry and Lorraine Chanin had been married almost 30 years when they made a “bucket list” in 2005. Their children were grown and they had plans to see the world while they could still enjoy it.

But toward the end of one of those trips in the summer of 2006, Henry Chanin began feeling ill. By the last day of the trip he had a fever and chills. He couldn’t walk.

The next day they got on an airplane to come home. Lorraine looked at Henry as they sat next to each other on their Las Vegas-bound flight and couldn’t believe what she saw.

His eyes and skin were yellow.

Henry, who didn’t have the strength to walk down the aisle to the restroom, took a small mirror from his wife’s purse to see himself.

After returning to Las Vegas, Henry went to urgent care. The doctor told him he had hepatitis C and referred him to a gastroenterologist. Henry was in shock.

“It’s kind of like being told you have cancer, or if you have to face the death of a loved one. There’s stages you go through -- denial, anger, denial,” he said. “I was deeply anxious.”

Henry Chanin, now 62, recounted from the witness stand Monday how the infection and subsequent treatments have affected his life. His testimony came as part of the first trial connected to the hepatitis C outbreak linked to Southern Nevada endoscopy centers.

Henry Chanin was infected with the virus at the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center during a routine procedure. The Chanins have sued Teva Parenteral Medicines, Inc., and Baxter Healthcare Corporation, the companies that made and distributed, respectively, the anesthetic propofol used at the clinic. Their attorneys say the jumbo-sized vials of the drug, which contained five times the amount of propofol needed for a routine endoscopic procedure, encouraged reuse, which led to contamination and infection.

The attorneys also say the warnings on the vials were inadequate. They are suing for product liability and other claims. Portions of the lawsuit have been settled.

Lawyers for the drugmakers say they sympathize with Chanin, but they aren’t responsible for his infection. They say the warning labels on the vials are clear and consistent.

Earlier in the day Monday, Carolyn Goodman, president and founder of The Meadows School and wife of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, testified on Chanin’s behalf. He is the headmaster of The Meadows School and will take over Carolyn Goodman’s responsibilities when she retires later this year.

She said Chanin told her about the hepatitis C infection in 2008 after the outbreak started making headlines.

Although Chanin’s hepatitis is controlled after weeks of treatment similar to chemotherapy, he testified he is still anxious about passing the disease to his wife. He said he isn’t worried about transmitting it to children at the school since he doesn’t have physical contact with them.

But he worries about his family. He also worries about the virus again becoming active – his doctors told him there’s a 5 percent chance that could happen.

“I know intellectually that as long as the virus is suppressed, there’s very little chance of anything happening. But I can’t get past emotionally that … my blood’s not 100 percent,” he said.

After the diagnosis, it became a game of wait-and-see, Chanin testified. Sometimes, the body can defeat the virus on its own, he said his doctors told him, and at one point his doctors believed it had gone away for good. He was jubilant. But a blood test a few months later indicated the hepatitis C had become chronic. It would never leave his body.

“I was now going to have hepatitis C for the rest of my life,” Chanin said. His doctor told him he had Stage II liver disease and if he didn’t attempt treatment, the consequences could be dire: cirrhosis, liver cancer and other problems.

In October 2007, he began a six-month treatment regimen.

Each Friday he went to a clinic for an interferon injection and took doses of other drugs throughout the week. The side effects meant he was relegated to his bed or couch for the duration of the weekend suffering from flu-like symptoms, he said. He developed a painful rash and headaches.

The first holiday the treatments ruined was Halloween 2007. Chanin testified that every year since his two daughters were young, he would dress up in costume and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.

“That didn’t happen,” he said.

At Thanksgiving, he couldn’t sit through dinner. The Friday after, he and his now-adult daughters had for several years gone to the Motor Trend car show.

“We didn’t do that,” he said. Not only was he feeling weak, he had to get another injection that afternoon.

By Christmas, he had been on the treatment regimen for about two months. Christmas mornings were always the same – Henry Chanin would don his Santa Claus baseball cap and the family would gather for a holiday breakfast, after which they would gather around the tree and Henry would pass out gifts.

“I was unable to do that in 2007,” he said, and his baseball cap was passed to his daughters.

Throughout the treatment, he didn’t complain, he testified. His prognosis was good – after the first four weeks, his doctors told him his levels indicated there was a 90 percent chance that if he completed treatment, the virus would be suppressed.

Goodman testified it became apparent that Chanin was having health issues, but kept them private. In the fall of 2006, the school obtained a golf cart for Chanin to use around the 40-acre campus.

The Meadows School is a nonprofit, private school in the northwest valley that serves students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Chanin was hired in 2001 as an English teacher, then advanced first to department chair, then to a school administrator. Chanin said the golf cart was essential in helping him manage his increasing responsibilities at the school.

He said he still suffers from joint pain and a loss of stamina as a result of the disease and its treatment.

He can no longer work extra long hours, he said. He has to pay close attention to which after-school activities he attends.

Most painful, he said, is that he can no longer play golf or participate in other activities with his wife.

Chanin’s attorneys are expected to rest their case Tuesday afternoon.

About 50,000 people were notified they needed to undergo testing for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV after an investigation in 2008 by the Southern Nevada Health District.

Thousands sued in the wake of the health district investigation. The Chanins’ suit is the first to be heard by a jury.

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