Surgery from Hell: Minn. Nurse Accused of Stealing Pain Meds Intended for Kidney Stone Patient

Sarah May Casareto (WCCO)

(CBS/AP) A Minnesota nurse who was supposed to sedate a patient before surgery instead took most of the painkillers for herself and told the patient to "man up" - giving him such a small dose of medication that he was writhing in pain on the operating table, according to criminal charges.

Sarah May Casareto, 33, of Forest Lake, was charged Wednesday with one count of theft of a controlled substance, a felony. She allegedly told officers she was addicted to pain medications.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune identifies 56-year-old Larry King of Bloomington as the patient who went to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis last November to have kidney stones surgically removed. Part of the procedure involves inserting a tube into the patient's back and down into the kidney.

Before the surgery, a doctor told the patient he wouldn't feel pain. But Casareto, a nurse anesthetist, allegedly told the man "you're gonna have to man up here and take some of the pain because we can't give you a lot of medication," the criminal complaint said.

During surgery, the patient told doctors he was experiencing the worst pain, describing the feeling as "very long needles going through my skin and down into my kidney," the complaint said. The patient said he could feel someone holding him down, and heard one person ask about using restraints.

Meanwhile, hospital staff told police Casareto was distracted and disoriented, kept falling asleep, and was gesturing and talking loudly. One hospital technician told police the patient was

screaming and moaning, and Casareto told him to "go to your beach . . . go to your happy place," the complaint said.

After the procedure, the technician found two syringes, with labels missing, in Casareto's pocket. A review of medical documents showed the patient only received about one-third of the Fentanyl he was supposed to get, while some of the drug was missing, the complaint said.

Hospital officials later found four empty syringes in Casareto's pocket and asked her to take a drug test. She refused, and resigned, the complaint said.

Abbott Northwestern spokeswoman Gloria O'Connell said she couldn't discuss current or former employees.

"Any time there is a suspicious situation, we investigate it," she said "We have policies and procedures in place to protect the safety of our patients, which is our primary concern."

The patient tells the Star Tribune he's "feeling fine" and has retained an attorney. He's back at work as a sheriff's deputy in Carver County.