The sign stuck to Samuel Tolbert’s refrigerator states: “Vegetables heal; Fruits cleanse; Acids contaminate the blood.”
After this week, he may want to add a warning about bleach.
Tolbert, 60, of Maplewood, was among eight people injected with a cleaning solution at a U.S. Renal Care kidney dialysis center in Town and Country on Monday.
He was among the seven patients who were hospitalized. All are expected to recover. Hospital officials declined to release any information Thursday about the other dialysis patients. U.S. Renal Care released no new information.
Tolbert was released from the intensive care unit of Missouri Baptist Hospital Wednesday evening.
On Thursday afternoon, he sat in his living room waiting for an ambulance to take him to a dialysis appointment at another U.S. Renal Care facility in Ferguson.
He says he has talked to an attorney.
“I’m concerned about my kidneys which (function) at about 20 percent anyway,” he said. “Now I’m worried I won’t have any left. Who knows where they’re going if you put cleaning fluid in my system.”
Normally, Tolbert uses Call-A-Ride to get to and from appointments. But, he said, U.S. Renal Care officials insisted he take an ambulance.
Normally, he gets dialysis every other day. He’s had it every day since Monday, he says, presumably to flush any remaining cleaning solution from his system.
It’s exhausting, he added.
Tolbert, a diabetic, began dialysis in February, shortly after his lower left leg had to be amputated because of gangrene.
He spent the next several weeks residing at Cedars of Town and Country nursing home, site of the U.S. Renal Care center.
On Monday, his four-hour dialysis appointment started like any other.
As he often does, Tolbert fell asleep. When he woke up, he had already been unhooked from the dialysis machine and was told he could leave.
“I went to the washroom to wash my hands then called a ride to come get me,” he says. “I was in the lobby waiting, when they asked me to come back into the clinic. They said, ‘We need to send you to a hospital because we got some bad fluid in you.’ ”
He says he didn’t feel bad until Wednesday when he was released from Missouri Baptist. Since then, he says, he has bouts of dizziness and no appetite.
What’s worse: He missed an appointment on Tuesday to have a prosthetic leg fitted and his daughter’s 10th birthday Wednesday.
Right now, he gets around in a wheelchair.
Federal health officials are investigating the incident at the Town and Country center.
Tom Weinberg, spokesman for U.S. Renal Care, said Wednesday that a cleaning solution commonly used in dialysis was inadvertently added into their water supply due to a one-time human error.
Dialysis centers add chlorine bleach to tap water to disinfect it and clean the machinery. The tubes are typically flushed out for 30 minutes to an hour to ensure the chlorine levels are satisfactory.
Tolbert has no problem with going to the Ferguson clinic, just so long as they don’t take him back to the Town and Country location.
“How can they make that kind of mistake?” he asked. “They work there every day and have my life in their hands.”