NEW YORK – A city hospital nearly destroyed a New Jersey woman's life and wrecked her marriage after misdiagnosing her with terminal HIV, hepatitis and herpes, according to a bombshell lawsuit.
Maria Osorio, 54, of Passaic, said she saw an ad on TV offering a $15 mammogram at Harlem Hospital over Valentine's Day last February and decided to take advantage of the screening.
When a nurse offered her a free instant cheek swab and blood test, too, she accepted. That's when she was told she had HIV.
"It was horrible. I wanted to throw myself on the subway tracks," she said.
The shocked Osorio immediately turned on her husband of 37 years, Gabriel Lezcano, 60, who works as a janitor in New Jersey.
"I started screaming violently at him. I pushed him. I pulled his hair. 'Who were you with?' I asked him. He kept denying that he was with anyone, but I kept raising my voice and pushing him. 'You must have been with someone. You must have had too many beers and maybe now you just don't remember,' " she recalled.
Lezcano fought back. "I've been a good man to you. I haven't been with anyone else. I am a very scrupulous man. I just do my work and I come home," he told his furious wife.
Lezcano told The Post that the accusations of his wife, a fellow Colombian immigrant, nearly killed him.
"She's my only woman," he said. "I felt that someone was trying to trick us."
His denials fell on deaf ears. The distraught Osorio was convinced her husband was lying. How else could she have contracted the sexually transmitted disease?
A few days later, the hospital called again to say the disease was very advanced, according to court papers.
"I wanted to kill him," she said. "I began to mistrust him and hate him. I couldn't believe that he had been with other women, that he had lied to me."
She also decided to commit suicide.
"I kept thinking how I could kill myself. All I did was plan how I was going to end my life," she said. "I resolved to do it at the beach in the summer, just to throw myself in the ocean and make it look like an accident."
She stopped sleeping. She threw up constantly. She couldn't work.
"I didn't want to get out of bed," she said.
Her husband stopped sleeping, too. They both became addicted to sleeping pills and took to sleeping in separate beds, alone in their misery and distrust.
Her two grown sons, who still live in Colombia, were hysterical. They would call, crying, insisting there was a mistake.
When Osorio, a home health aide, pointed out to the nurses that she had no medical problems whatsoever, they replied, "This is a silent disease."
"They told me that this machine does not lie," she said.
But almost three weeks later, the hospital called to say she was perfectly healthy.
Yet no one apologized or admitted to a mistake, she said. One secretary said she was sorry for her pain.
When she went to the hospital to talk to the nurses who had originally tested her, they hugged her and told her that "the hand of God had come down to bless me because the machine never lies," she said.
She was stunned by the reversal of fortune.
"I was in a dream. I kept saying, 'Thanks to God, thanks to God,' and I hugged my husband, and we prayed to the saints on the altar on our kitchen table."
But the damage to the marriage had already been done.
"I met him when I was 17 years old. We were always very united as a couple," Osorio said. "We work and we come home, and that is our life."
Now they still sleep in separate beds, and still rely on pills to sleep.
"This has really hurt our marriage. We are afraid to have any sexual contact with each other. We are still very nervous," Osorio said.
Her husband agreed.
"My partner has been destroyed emotionally," he said.
Osorio filed a medical-malpractice notice of claim against the city in state Supreme Court in Manhattan last week.
"I can't believe there could be such errors," Lezcano said. "We don't want anyone else to go through what we've been through."
City officials said they would not comment on pending litigation.