Two women who had cataract surgery at the Moncton Hospital are sharing their concerns after receiving a letter that delivered shocking news.

Horizon Health, which operates the hospital, informed hundreds of patients that two separate cases of a suspected degenerative brain disease have been found in patients who had the same surgery. 

Deb MacPherson and Gail Cormier met when they both had cataract surgery at the Moncton Hospital in October.

In February, they received a letter from Horizon Health, letting them know that a patient with probable Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease also had cataract surgery at the hospital before their surgeries. 

The letter stated: “CJD is a rare degenerative brain disorder that leads to dementia.”

“Well, that gripped me like a … it just stunned me,” said MacPherson.

Horizon Health confirmed two cases of probable CJD at the Moncton Hospital, but says the cases are totally unrelated.

MacPherson was at a loss for words.

“To get this letter was the final straw,” she said.

MacPherson now wonders why patients undergoing cataract surgery were not required to have more testing beforehand -- and now.

“The spinal cord, the MRI, the EEG, those are all things that can be done to be tested for. So why aren't they?” she said.

A statement from the Eye Doctors of New Brunswick reads in part: “There have been no reported cases of a patient acquiring CJD from cataract surgery in the medical literature. Horizon Health took the exemplary measure of informing patients of a theoretical exposure to a rare infectious disease.”

However, the women say even a rare chance of possible exposure is enough to keep them up at night.

“It's just the possibility, it's not good enough for me,” said Cormier. “And they should be screening; why are they not screening the patients?”

And still, there are more questions than answers.

“We want to know what type we've been possibly exposed to,” MacPherson said. “We want to know what the significance is and how long it takes for symptoms to appear. We want to know what they're going to step up to the plate and do.”

A spokesperson for the New Brunswick Department of Health re-iterated Tuesday it’s almost impossible for these two cases to be linked.

“Cases caused as a result of medical procedures are exceedingly rare, causing less than one per cent of all CJD cases,” said Dr. Cristin Muecke, New Brunswick’s deputy chief medical officer of health.  “There has never been a documented case of transmission of CJD during cataract surgery.”

According to Horizon Health, the transmission of CJD by surgical instruments has only been documented seven times worldwide and they occurred 20 to 40 years ago. None involved cataract surgery.

There was one death from CJD reported this year in March. However, Horizon Health would not confirm if that case was one of the two disclosed by the Moncton Hospital.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kate Walker.