TB patient readies for surgery to remove lung

9:37 AM, Jul 31, 2007   |    comments
  • 9NEWS interviews Robert Daniels before his surgery.
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Doctors will remove 27-year-old Robert Daniels' entire left lung.

Doctors at National Jewish Medical and Research Center say he is not contagious, but say the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment does not allow Daniels to have visitors, so the Russian immigrant did an interview Monday in a very unusual interview setting. He was on one balcony and 9NEWS was on another, with a 40-foot gap between them.

Daniels shared his darkest fear, and it is not about his extensive lung surgery.

"The fear of going back to Phoenix," he said.

It is of going back to a room where the Daniels spent most of the last year, with little sunlight, cameras and no shower.

He was locked up when, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, he ignored instructions to wear a mask in public. He also did not consistently take his medications.

"Instead of explaining to me what to do and to really sit down and talk to me about this, they didn't do that," Daniels said. "I'm from a country where TB is like the flu and nobody really cares about it and nobody wears a mask. So I thought it wasn't a big deal. They decided to put me away not because there was the mask issue, but it was because they found out I have MDR."

Daniels actually has XDR-TB, or extremely drug resistant tuberculosis. His room at National Jewish was next to Andrew Speaker's. It was believed Speaker also had XDR-TB, but he did not. Speaker was recently released from National Jewish and is back in Georgia.

Daniels says he contracted the disease in a Russia prison many years ago, where he served time for marijuana possession.

He did receive treatment and says he was surprised with the diagnosis he received in the U.S.

After his surgery Tuesday at the University of Colorado Hospital, and recovery over several weeks, he is supposed to go back to the jail ward at the Maricopa Medical Center.

Daniels says he did not mean for any of this to happen.

"I thought as long as I'm on my medication, I'm fine, not going to contaminate anybody. I was sure of that," said Daniels.

Now, he's not quite sure what the future holds, but he's certain of one thing.

"I don't consider myself as a criminal. I never did anything wrong. I was treated worse than a criminal," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a suit on behalf of Daniels, claiming that he was treated like a criminal instead of a patient while in a Phoenix hospital.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office passed along its findings to a judge to decide whether criminal charges should be filed. None have been filed so far.

Daniels has a wife and a 6-year-old son in Russia. He says he is not sure if he will stay in the U.S. or go back to Moscow.

Daniels' parents immigrated to Phoenix in 1989. The 27-year-old has lived in the United States for many years, but recently had been living in Moscow.

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