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Utah Woman Battles Superbug After Weight-Loss Surgery In Mexico

SPANISH FORK, Utah – A Utah woman is being treated in an isolation unit at University Hospital after contracting a drug-resistant infection while undergoing weight-loss surgery in Mexico, according to the woman’s family.

Two weeks ago, Ronnie Dotson, 34, of Spanish Fork, traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, with three other women for the surgery.

Ronnie Dotson

Her family says she returned home on Jan. 14 not feeling well and that the surgical incision appeared infected. After several doctor visits confirmed the seriousness of the infection, the family took her to the hospital on Tuesday.

“Last night, they had to put her on a new antibiotic, one that is toxic, so they have to monitor her kidneys,” said Hollie Daniel, Dotson’s sister. “Up until then it didn’t seem like she was getting any better.”

The Utah Department of Health confirms that Utah is part of a cluster of surgical-site infections caused by an antibiotic-resistant form of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Four cases have been confirmed in Utah so far, with more being investigated.

“These infections occurred among U.S. residents who had an invasive medical procedure in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico,” the department said in a press release.

“Utah is one of several states that has cases associated with this cluster.”

Most of the cases are patients who traveled for weight-loss surgery, with half of the infections coming from Grand View Hospital in Tijuana.

“Poor infection control practices were identified at Grand View Hospital, including failure to appropriately clean and disinfect surgical instruments,” the health department’s statement went on to say.

The infections are not the only worry. According to the health department, those who have had surgical procedures in Tijuana since August 2018 should be immediately tested for blood-borne infections, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

Ronnie Dotson in Hospital

Dotson’s family is hopeful the stronger antibiotic wipes out the infection but is now worried about how she’ll pay for the hospital stay.

“It costs more than it did to have the surgery done,” Dotson said of the emergency care. “Her bills are already adding up. They are really expensive.”

Dotson is uninsured and had gone across the border for surgery in order to save money.

“It’s not a better financial decision,” added another sister, Michelle Thomas. “If you get the superbug you’re having to pay thousands, thousands in doctor bills.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Mexican government has closed the Grand View Hospital until further notice.

“CDC recommends that travelers to Mexico not have surgery (including weight-loss surgery) at Grand View Hospital in Tijuana, until the Mexican government can confirm that the drug-resistant form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria is no longer there,” according to a statement from the CDC.

Dotson’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for Dotson’s medical bills.

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