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Couple Sues North Shore University Hospital Over Contaminated Kidney

MANHASSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It was to be the gift of life from a loving wife to her husband -- a kidney transplant that would give the father of three new health.

But in the midst of the delicate double operation the couple says a Long Island hospital's error contaminated the kidney, CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported Monday.

"Knowing I wouldn't have to do dialysis anymore and that she was a match for me, that was such a great blessing," Terrence Johnson said.

Proud parents Terrence and Gwendolyn Johnson knew their futures were changing when she was declared a perfect match as a live kidney donor for her ailing husband.

"That was deep love. She really wanted to do it," Terrence Johnson said.

The surgery was underway at one of the most respected hospitals on the East Coast -- North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset -- but the couple claims doctors became alarmed when an unidentified fluid dripped into the receptacle containing her freshly harvested kidney.

"While we were under anesthesia, my family was told by the doctors that some type of fluid had fallen on the kidney," Gwendolyn Johnson said.

They said surgeons were forced to delay the transplant as they cleansed the vulnerable organ.

"I was in surgery for over 10 hours. By the kidney being out the body so long, they told me, the kidney went to sleep," Terrence Johnson said.

The transplant was supposed to add decades to Terrence Johnson's life, but by the time he received his wife's kidney, lawyers allege it barely functioned.

According to the surgeon's report, "We were preparing the kidney on the back table. The organ was exposed in the basin where the fluid dripped. A large drop of fluid fell from the ceiling of the operating room, on top of the procured kidney."

"We do not know if this was sewage; we do not know if it was some chemical used in the hospital -- cleaning fluid, fresh water, we have no idea and the hospital will not disgorge this information," attorney Richard Obiol said.

That is because North Shore vigorously denies the charge.

"There has never been any incident of environmental contamination as is being alleged in this lawsuit," a hospital spokesman said.

"We had a perfectly healthy kidney and before it was over, it wasn't healthy," Gwendolyn Johnson said.

Terrence Johnson remains in kidney failure. His wife now has just one kidney. Their lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court.

North Shore said it has successfully transplanted 150 kidneys and stands by its stellar reputation, McLogan reported.

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