Las Vegas man aims to prevent repeat of sickly fate


Outside Henry Chanin's office at The Meadows School is the golf cart he must use to move around campus.

It is a reminder of one way the hepatitis C he acquired in 2006 during a colonoscopy at Dr. Dipak Desai's Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center has changed his life.

"I still have joint pain and fatigue," the 63-year-old head of the private pre-K-12 school in Summerlin said Wednesday as he sat behind a desk full of paperwork. "I go to bed a lot earlier."

Hepatitis C attacks the liver and can cause a slow, painful death.

Wearing a gray suit, blue shirt and blue tie, the 6-foot-3 inch Chanin looks every bit the investment banker he was until he retired from the profession in 1996.

Financially secure, he never had to work again. But he wanted to make a difference as a teacher. He started grad school in English at UNLV.

When there was an opening in 2001 for an English teacher at The Meadows, he jumped at it.

"I thought I had died and gone to educational heaven," he said of working with "the motivated leaders of tomorrow."

Most people had never heard of Chanin until 2010, when the then- headmaster of Meadows took the witness stand in his lawsuit against companies that made the anesthetic propofol given to colonoscopy patients - a drug at the heart of a hepatitis outbreak that caused authorities to notify 50,000 people of possible exposure to hepatitis and HIV.

Experts said the outbreak, believed to have infected more than 100 people with hepatitis, was caused by nurse anesthetists reusing syringes and medicine vials that were intended for single use.

Chanin's lawsuit argued that drug companies, to ensure more profit, sold vials of propofol much larger than needed for colonoscopies, tempting staffers to reuse vials among patients instead of throwing away unused anesthetic - behavior linked to 23 infectious disease outbreaks around the globe.

A jury agreed with Chanin, awarding him $522 million. A confidential settlement amount was recently reached.

So is Chanin heading off to on an island he can probably buy?

"Retirement is not on my radar," he said. "I love this school."

What is new for Chanin are his efforts with the Hepatitis Outbreaks National Organization for Reform, or HONOReform - work aimed at providing a patient safety program in Nevada.

"If I can help make the community safer, I should do it, " he said. "We need to keep awareness of safe medical practices from disappearing from the public consciousness. After all, we're trying to make this a place for medical tourism."

Chanin is joined by hepatitis C survivor Karen Morrow and Dr. Frank Nemec in spearheading a campaign to persuade area health facilities to make safe injections and infection control part of ongoing training programs.

The Nevada State Medical Association and Clark County Medical Society have already endorsed HONOReform's efforts. Chanin said many hospitals and outpatient facilities are close to signing onto the program.

Soon HONOReform ads and promotions will show which institutions openly push safe medical practices.

Never again, Chanin said, should people contract a disease because they sought health care.

Hepatitis initially put him in a wheelchair.

So far, the drug treatment Chanin underwent for six months in an attempt to suppress the disease has worked.

The treatment's side effects included vomiting and bleeding rashes - blood that made Chanin fearful of infecting his wife.

Every six months he's retested.

"The treatment works on 50 percent of patients," Chanin said. "I'm very lucky."

Paul Harasim is the medical reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His column appears Mondays. Harasim can be reached at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.

 

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