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updated 2/10/2011 11:45:25 AM ET 2011-02-10T16:45:25

A 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, was charged Wednesday with one count of theft of a controlled substance, a felony. She allegedly told officers she was addicted to pain medications.

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According to the complaint, a man, identified only by his initials, went to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis on Nov. 8 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. Patients are normally heavily sedated or asleep during the procedure.

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 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 medial 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.

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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.

Casareto did not immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press.

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."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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