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Letter from University Hospitals explaining storage tank malfunction hits couple hard

Posted at 5:19 PM, Mar 27, 2018
and last updated 2019-03-28 16:02:21-04

For the Plants, the letter sent by University Hospitals on Monday explaining the storage tank malfunction that has cost them the opportunity to have children is the latest devastating blow they've had to endure.

"This letter is like dropping a bomb. It's like handing people a bomb," Kate Plants said.

The first blow came when Kate Plants was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, taking away her chances of having a child naturally. But they held onto the hope that they could have a child through a surrogate.

The second blow hit when Kate and her husband, Jeremy, had their only chances left at having a biological child taken away from them. UH announced at the beginning of March that a storage tank malfunction left 2,000 eggs and embryos in question, robbing the Plants and so many other couples of their chances of having a family.

And then the third blow came: the newest letter from UH to the patients affected by the malfunction. UH announced that the number of eggs and embryos affected by the malfunction was double what was previously reported. And the cause was human error.

RELATED: UH blames human error for fertility center malfunction, says 4,000 eggs and embryos lost

"It's just more infuriating that they knew something was wrong, they didn't do anything about it, and now they're trying to poo poo it off, or point the finger at somebody instead of themselves," Jeremy Plants said.

The letter states: "We know that the remote alarm system on the tank, designed to alert a UH employee to temperature swings, was off...We don't know who turned off the remote alarm nor do we know how long it was off." 

"It feels like betrayal. We left our kids, our most precious part of ourselves with somebody, and they promised to watch over them," Kate said. 

The letter goes on to detail issues with the tank that UH employees knew about long before the malfunction, stating, "We know that the tank in question needed preventative maintenance." 

"The stuff that came out in the letter, it's like a slap in the face," Kate said. 

According to UH, the automatic fill for the liquid nitrogen was broken, so the nitrogen had to be added manually. The embryology lab was also completely out of liquid nitrogen, and staff borrowed it from another lab in the hospital. 

The eggs and embryos were supposed to be moved to another tank while the broken one got fixed. But UH revealed that "no eggs or embryos had yet been moved to the extra tank."

The Plants' attorney, Tom Merriman, told News 5 the information in the letter totally changed the case.

"This is about an entity that consciously disregarded a substantive danger. They know they had a problem. In that context, the law provides for punishment damages. This hospital needs to be punished for what they did so they never do it again and no other clinic in this country even considers doing what they did," Merriman said.

The letter also states that UH plans to offer medical services to clients affected, as well as to pay back storage fees. But for couples like the Plants, there is nothing the hospital can do that will ever make up for their lost opportunity of having a biological child.

"We've always wondered what would our kids would be like, part of her, part of me, and that's a reality we are never going to know," Jeremy said. 

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