Tara's Story

I knew I was allergic to latex in the late 90's while working as an EMT. My hands would swell and itch. There was a university hospital that had non-latex supplies and would let me have some for personal usage. My company didn't get non-latex supplies for several years.  So I just stayed away from it.

In late 2013, I was working in an ED as a Tech and assisting in a central line for a critical patient. She was crashing and we were in a hurry.  I opened a package of sterile gloves for the MD and kept working. The MD was putting the gloves on and mentioned "these feel like latex, that’s weird. I thought we didn't have any because so many people were allergic to it." I said "I know, I am." He offered to remove them and put different ones on and the patient started getting worse. I said to just do the procedure and that I just wouldn't be near him. When the procedure was over, I started to feel weird and told the Charge RN. He said that there wasn't supposed to be latex in the hospital. The RN for the patient came out holding a stack of sterile latex gloves and said they were stocked in the room. The Charge RN told me to check in to the ER. He then yelled at me to sit down as I was collapsing. He grabbed an IV set and put one in while calling for someone to get him meds.  He called a MD over and she ordered more meds and said that we had to keep me in front of them to be watched. The only med I didn't get was EPI.

A little later we had a trauma patient being brought in and the Trauma Team was assembling for it. I was kept in a bed right outside the Trauma Bay and everyone knew me as I'm a member of the Trauma Team.  The Anesthesiologist sat on my bed and was asking what happened. I told her and mentioned that I had specifically asked if the facility was latex-free when I was hired and I was told it had been. She said that there are surgeons that demand to wear latex gloves in the OR and the gloves are kept stocked because of that.  The ER was searched and latex gloves were found in every room.

Employee Health said that I couldn't return to work until this was investigated. I was placed in an office for three months while they investigated. My managers worked with others to find out what had happened. Employee Health managed to get the latex removed from the regular supply in the hospital and that signs had to be placed on supply bins that would contain latex. There were a couple instances where latex was found again and no one knew how it got there. I was told that they couldn't completely remove the latex and there could be a case when I would encounter it again at work and I had to be extra vigilant on what is around me. I was finally able to go back to the ER and work as normal.

To work at the hospital, I have to be under the care of an Allergist and I take 6 antihistamines a day to block the reaction and I carry an EPI-PEN at all times in order to work.  It is very involved and it has caused changes in the 6 hospitals that are part of the hospital group. Employee Health has had to change several Policies and Procedures on a system-wide scale and it has also changed how materials are purchased.