ALBANY, Ky. - The family of a Kentucky man believed to be one of the first victims of rare form of fungal meningitis is sharing their story, as the outbreak continues to grow.
Tennessee now has 61 confirmed cases, eight of them fatal.
Judge Eddie Lovelace of Albany Kentucky was 78 years old, but make no mistake, he was healthy.
Family members told NewsChannel 5 he walked three miles every morning and worked six days a week. In fact, the only reason he was getting steroid injections for back pain is because he was in a serious car accident back in March.
He received three injections, all of them at the Saint Thomas outpatient clinic that's now closed.
"I guess about a week before he died, he was complaining of being dizzy," his widow, Joyce Lovelace recalled. "Then he was working, and he complained of his hand being numb."
The next morning, she recalls, things got even worse.
"He said there's something wrong with my legs," she said. "He said I went out to get the paper and I've fallen twice."
That's when the couple's daughter took him to the hospital. At Vanderbilt Medical Center, doctors determined he'd had two strokes, but something was off.
"They kept coming in and saying this is so unusual," said his daughter Karen Talbott. "None of the treatments they tried, nothing worked."
Judge Lovelace's condition deteriorated quickly. On September 17, he passed away. Eight long days later, Joyce Lovelace got her first call from Saint Thomas Hospital.
"The lady said she was wanting to know how he was doing, from his procedure," she said. "I said well, Brother Eddie passed away. She said 'I'm sorry', and that was about it. She didn't mention anything about meningitis, said nothing about contamination of the steroids."
A few days later, Joyce got a second call from Saint Thomas. This time, the person on the phone asked what symptoms her husband showed before his death, and wanted to know if the family did an autopsy.
"It bothers us," said Joyce. "I'm bitter, I'm angry, I have so many emotions."
She said the family buried him, thinking he'd died of a stroke. It was not until news of the meningitis outbreak broke in early October, that they remembered he'd gotten steroid injections at Saint Thomas.
"This is the single most devastating experience I've had in my life," said the judge's son, Chris Lovelace. "It was preventable. There were so many steps along this process that if someone had made a different decision, my dad would be here today."
Now, the family wants answers about how it happened.
"I don't understand why there was no FDA supervision or inspection or regulation, I don't understand that part of it," said Joyce. "And I don't understand why Saint Thomas would buy medicines from the New England Compounding Center, because they've been in trouble before."
The Lovelace family has an attorney, but said it's far too early to make any decisions about filing a lawsuit.
They've chosen to speak out and tell their story in the meantime, in hopes of sparing another family from this kind of pain.
"I don't want anybody else to have to suffer like he suffered," said Joyce.
Nationwide, 19 people have now lost their lives in the outbreak.