Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I spoke to Patty yesterday (names are changed). We spoke a few years ago and then lost contact. Her story stayed with me over the years because it is sad and painful but so real.

Her husband was seriously damaged during surgery. He was a businessman she, a businesswoman. They had careers, a home and close family. Following his injury, she became his caretaker and he lost his job, she could barely work and they became poor and lost their home.

When I speak to her, she could be anyone of my friends or family members. Patty is educated and articulate – but she is one of those in the “system” that has failed us as patients.

She waited too long to sue. Her husband’s injury and caring for him consumed her. They expected honest answers from the doctors and hospital. Her husband worked for the hospital. He ran a department. The hospital denied any wrongdoing but still, he went in for treatment and came back an invalid, unable to care for himself, in a variety of ways.

Patty is still angry and feels obsessed with telling her story. But, all too often no one wants to hear it. How can she sound reasonable with all this anger and grief? Now Patty tells me she fears she will die before her husband; no one to care for him and no one to tell his story. Her health is failing and she has years of research and documentation of her husbands care and treatment and why it was inappropriate. She wants to know what she should do with it.

I hear stories like this and feel like a failure myself. How can I help her or others like her? I probably can’t. Can I help others never to be in this situation to begin with? I just don’t know. Do I want to be in the center of the pain and turmoil Patty feels? Yes, I do because it is the reason I continue this work.

I sometimes wonder where I can go with this but hopefully someone will read this with ideas. There are just too many Patty’s out there.

1 comment:

Daniela said...

Hi Ilene, thanks for sharing "Patty's" story. If she is interested, Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project works with people who have personal experiences with medical errors to share their story on our website, with the media and government officials. She can go to and click on the Share Your Story tab. We know that powerful stories from real patients deliver a strong message to the public and our health care leaders that we need to enact patient safety reform now.