Colo. Man Becomes FF Despite Hep C

DENVER --

A 21-year-old former Marine who was infected with Hepatitis C at Rose Medical Center said the virus nearly derailed his dream of becoming a firefighter.

Last year, Josh Kraft and dozens of other Rose Medical patients were infected with Hepatitis C by former scrub technician Kristen Parker. Parker is serving a 30-year sentence in federal prison after confessing to stealing syringes full of painkillers at the hospital and leaving behind dirty needles to be used on patients.

Kraft contracted the virus after having surgery at Rose to remove a benign tumor from his throat. He worried that the disease, combined with debilitating therapy sessions, would leave him too weak to handle the strenuous exercises required of firefighter candidates.

My concern was possibly never being able to get on a fire department, said Kraft. You're drained and fatigued almost every day. It's hard to even crawl out of bed.

Shortly after he was diagnosed, in the midst of training, Kraft began painful interferon therapy, receiving injections to the stomach twice a week and taking half a dozen pills daily.

The medication gives you physical aches and pains, said Kraft. It feels like you have arthritis in your joints.

Kraft also battled depression and flu-like symptoms, all while trying to prove himself in fire training exercises.

Seems like everything you do you're one step behind everybody else just because you can't keep up, can't focus, said Kraft. There would be days where we'd train and I'd push myself to the point of puking or almost passing out.

All the while, Kraft said he never gave up, pushing himself twice as hard as everyone else.

I didn't want to be the guy that lets everyone down because I'm on medication, he said.

The hard work paid off. Kraft was recently certified as a firefighter near the top of his class.

Firefighting is my dream job, said Kraft. You can't let anything let you down or stop you. If you want something bad enough you can work for it, no matter what stands in your way."

Kraft said he is not angry atParker, but that he struggles with forgiveness.

Kraft and other patients plan to sue Rose Medical Center in the near future. One patient, Antoinette Fleisher, filed the first lawsuit against the hospital on May 2.

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