Lauren Lollini knew someone had to speak up.
That's one reason she decided to go public last year about her ordeal, letting Westword use her face and name in "Going Viral," a feature about what dozens of people were facing as a result of surgical tech/dope fiend Kristen Parker's rampage through Rose Medical Center's operating rooms.
And it also explains why she favors a new measure to register surgical techs, which was inspired by stories like hers.
Over a period of months, Parker infected Lollini and other patients with hepatitis C by stealing their painkillers and leaving dirty needles filled with saline. After she flunked a drug test and was fired, Parker was hired at another surgery center in less than two weeks.
Lollini didn't think it should be that easy for someone like Parker to ruin so many lives. "If we don't learn from this, we're all stupid," she told me last summer.
Now a highly visible advocate of patient rights, Lollini has been busy pushing for tougher scrutiny of health-care workers and following Parker's journey through the legal system. She attended Parker's sentencing last week and has nothing but praise for U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn, who had earlier rejected a plea deal that would have given Parker twenty years in prison.
Blackburn complained that the deal didn't give him any discretion and had been reached without consulting the victims of Parker's recklessness.
"Judge Blackburn was phenomenal," Lollini says. "He made it clear that the victims hadn't been heard. I'm not a vengeful person, but twenty years didn't seem very long for what she did."
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Blackburn gave Parker thirty years. And Lollini is now supporting some modest reforms in the state legislature, including a bill sponsored by Arvada representatives Sara Gagliardi and Debbie Benefield that would make Colorado one of the few states requiring registration of surgical techs -- who, though less severely regulated than nurses and doctors, often have access to powerful drugs. The bill would also require hospitals to share information about employees under investigation like Parker, making it less likely that they could move easily from one sensitive position to another.
"I think it's a good first step," Lollini says of the proposed legislation. "The onus is still on the hospital to do the checking. If they don't check, we can have the same problem we had with Kristen Parker."
Another bill, HB 10-1283, seeks to strengthen portions of current patient safety laws, but Lollini sees substantial loopholes for physicians who don't want to disclose information. And more disclosure, Lollini believes, is needed -- particularly when it comes to hiring people who can tamper with patients' medications and their health.
"If Rose had called either of the places Parker worked before she came there," Lollini points out, "and asked if they'd hire her back, they would have said 'no.'"