Abbott Northwestern nurse accused of stealing painkillers
A former nurse anesthetist at Abbott Northwestern Hospital is accused of stealing her patient's medication just before surgery and taking it herself.
When a male patient came in to have kidney stones removed, rather than administer a powerful anesthetic that should have rendered the procedure painless, nurse Sarah May Casareto told him she couldn't give him the drugs.
According to the police report, the patient arrived at the hospital to have his kidney stones surgically removed. He was told by his doctor that the procedure would be painless, but once he was left in the care of Casareto, she said something that should have sent him running for the door.
"You're gonna have to man up here and take some of the pain," she said. "We can't give you a lot of medication. You're going straight into surgery."
The overly trusting patient was then wheeled into the OR without being given the powerful pain med Fentanyl that had been prescribed to him.
Here's the horror-movie part. As the surgery began, the doctor inserted a tube through an incision in the patient's back and down into his kidney. The patient—who should have been completely knocked out—told cops it felt like "very long needles going through my skin and down into my kidney."
As he screamed and almost lurched up off the table, one of the technicians had to hold him down. Helpfully, Casareto leaned into his ear and said loudly, "Go to your beach...go to your happy place."
Around this time both the doctor and technicians realized that Casareto was in her happy place. The doctor recalls that at one point she wandered out of the room when she should've been tending to the patient, who was screaming and writhing in pain. Her eyes were red and she couldn't properly attach EKGs to the man. Periodically, she nodded off.
After the surgery was over, the technician noticed Casareto had two syringes with the labels peeled off in her pockets. She also couldn't properly account for all of the Fentanyl she had signed out for the procedure.
Casareto was called into her supervisor's office, where she was described as rocking back and forth and acting belligerent. They found in her pockets four more empty, unmarked syringes, which one of the technicians believed once contained Fentanyl. They demanded she take a drug test.
"I will resign first before I take a drug test," said Casareto.
Her supervisor obliged her.
When police interviewed Casareto, she admitted that she has been addicted to pain meds in the past, including Vicodin and Percocet. She was arrested and charged with felony theft of a controlled substance.
In a statement from her attorney, Casareto is flatly denying the charges. She claims that Abbott Northwestern is trying to avoid blame for the patient's painful operation.
"Abbott is clearly using Mrs. Casareto as a scapegoat to avoid a potential multi-million judgment," writes attorney Max Keller.
Her attorney says the "man up" comment was just a friendly pep talk to warn King that he might experience some pain even while properly medicated.
"Mrs. Casareto's employment records from Abbott show that her hospital supervisors repeatedly praised her for being a compassionate nurse," writes Keller. "Intentionally subjecting a patient to undue pain is the last thing that Sarah would ever do."
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