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Needled Blood Donor Suffers Nerve Damage, Sues for $2 Million

For the needle-averse, Heather Giancaterino's story is a nightmare.

The Chesterfield County woman is suing the Virginia Blood Services, charging that one of its representatives stuck her with a needle and then allegedly wriggled it to induce blood flow, causing painful nerve damage to her right arm.

In the $2 million lawsuit, filed in Richmond Circuit Court earlier this month, Giancaterino says that the nerve damage in her arm is so severe she had to undergo surgery in January. The alleged incident occurred in May 2005 at the Boulders office park in Midlothian.

It's "an extremely dangerous problem," Giancaterino's attorney, Jason W. Konvicka, says of his client's injury. Konvicka says a hematoma developed in Giancaterino's arm and this damaged the ulnar nerve, the vein in the forearm commonly known as the "funny bone."

Damage to the ulnar nerve can be extremely painful, he says, and has made the use of her right hand difficult. Giancaterino, a billing analyst at HCA Inc., was forced to take a new job, she says in the complaint — one that required more limited use of a computer keyboard — as a result. Since the surgery, she says she's been unable to return to work.

Only after visiting two hand surgeons did they decide to file suit, Konvicka says. Both surgeons, he says, determined that the damage likely occurred from the needle prick at the blood drive. He says it will likely take more than a year for her to fully heal.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit Virginia Blood Services says the incident is under investigation and offered a statement from its lawyers.

"As we advise donors, blood donation, like any invasive procedure, involves a risk, and in rare cases, injury may occur," the spokeswoman says. "We are actively investigating the circumstances surrounding this particular claim. We wish Ms. Giancaterino the best and thank her for her desire to help others."

As of Monday, April 15, no court date had been set. S

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