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Harriet Dickstein

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Harriet’s Story:

“Lucky guy, you will get to rest up in Hawaii with your family.” Those were the final words my father would hear from anyone, spoken by his doctors a few days before his routine gallbladder operation. My father never left the hospital. This was the beginning of the MH nightmare for my family.

The autopsy that was performed by USC Medical stated the following: “Earl L. Smit, age 61. Cause of death: 24 hours after undergoing surgery, the patient developed an extremely rare reaction to anesthesia (halothane) called malignant hyperthermia. Note: MH, usually genetic and very difficult to detect, causes the body temperature to spike as high as 112 degrees. If the reaction is not recognized almost immediately and an antidote given, it can be fatal.” Unfortunately, there was no antidote to be given at that time. There was no MH organization to educate the medical profession.

My name is Harriet Dickstein. I want to share this story with members and benefactors of the Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the United States so everyone can protect their loved ones from a similar tragedy, like the one my family experienced. Now that I am educated about MH, thanks to MHAUS, I am proactive to protect myself, my children, and my grandchildren. Here’s an example: When my granddaughter was scheduled for minor ear surgery, I sent a faxed notice the day before the procedure to the doctor’s assistant stating that my granddaughter was MH susceptible. The night before the procedure, I was very uneasy, worrying that the nurse did not get my faxed “alert.” The surgery was scheduled for 8:00am and my granddaughter was scheduled to arrive at 6:30am for preparation. When my daughter arrived, she reminded the doctor that our granddaughter was MH susceptible. He never read the fax that I sent and, upon learning that my granddaughter was MH susceptible, cancelled the surgery. I thank God for allowing my instincts to help avoid another possible family tragedy due to MH.

Actions that you should take if you are MH susceptible:

·        Learn about MH – Become a member of MHAUS

·        Make sure all of your children and grandchildren, of your blood line, carry medical alert papers.

·        You can be tested for added protection

·        Spread the word to friends and family and encourage them to donate to MHAUS, a true life-saving organization


As written by Harriet Dickstein

Views and opinions expressed on this page are only those of the individual telling their story. MHAUS has not clinically vetted the content. 

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