Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lady from Limerick

One Woman's Story

Why is the Lady fromLimerick important?  This play, written by Claude Solnik, a writer and reporter from Long Island, is based on the story of Kathleen Kelly Cregan, a woman who came to New York from Ireland to live the dream of beauty.  The dream was snuffed away when she died following her plastic surgery.
When the battle to learn what happened was played out in a court room, there was settlements in the millions received by the family.  Actually, the family probably didn’t get all the money, the lawyers get paid – and so they should, and there are plenty of fees that come out of it.  Whatever they received it wasn’t the value of someone’s life.   Kathleen used a doctor who had over 30 malpractice settlements against him but was on television and in magazines claiming to be the best at what he did.  Kathleen Kelly Cregan followed a fantasy and used a doctor that was being questioned even by his peers.
Kathleen Kelly Cregan was not a number.  She was someone’s mother and wife.  In the play we will get to know the writers vision of what life might have been like for her in a small town outside of Limerick.  The story of this woman is the story of many people who don’t make the news and don’t have thoughtful writers bringing them back to life. 
Lady from Limerick is not one person’s story.  It is the representation of thousands and thousands of stories that don’t get told.  On April 10, 2014, her story will get told for her. And for all those she represents.  Like the 239 missing passengers who went down with that plane,  Kathleen Kelly Cregan represents at least that many -  because 1 is a number, and she matters too.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Patient Safety Awareness Week, Sad or Celebrate?

Patient Safety Awareness Week 2014; Sad or Celebrate?

Patient Safety Awareness Week is a bittersweet time.  It can be a time to celebrate all the work being done in safe patient care but it is also a time to reflect what we have lost and what had gotten us into this “mess”.
As my youngest son graduates college with a bachelor’s degree in business  management and moves on to become a chef at a very prestigious hotel many miles away from me, I can’t help but remember with pride how he came into this world.  Barely hearing his cry at just over 1 pound and 10 inches long, some say he was born too early.  Obviously they were wrong.  He was born just right.  At 23 weeks, he wasn’t “supposed” to survive.  But one doctor said I had a choice.  I chose to try to save him.  It was obviously the right decision.
His stubbornness to survive was also the same personality that got him his bachelor’s degree in 2 ½ years, got him the job he wanted as an intern chef in Kansas City and now at 20 years old, the job he wanted since he was 4 years old and told me he was going to be a cook like his grandpa.
I am reminded over and over of the nurses who took care of my baby, allowed me to hold him against the rules and allowed me to sneak up a friend for moral support.  The consent forms I had to sign for experimental medications and procedures that would ultimately save his life.   Months on a ventilator has left little scars and the poking and prodding that was done left marks only a mother could see.  I am proud of him and grateful every day to the hardworking, caring, sensitive and loving nurses, doctors and support staff who gave him life. 
How difficult it is, at the same time to recognize at any moment, these wonderful caring people can make an error or be involved in a situation that can cause the traumatic death or an injury because of a medication error, an infection or a procedure that may go wrong. 
I have not forgotten that it is the death of my first son from a preventable medical error that began my journey into patient safety but I also don’t want people to forget that there are many lives saved every day because clinicians take chances.  
We would probably be more forgiving of the error were we treated with dignity and respect following an unplanned outcome.  I believe most people are not as angry at the error itself but at the way patients and their family members are treated following the event that can cause injury and harm.  We rarely think about the pilot who gets us to our destination safely.  But, were there to be an unplanned outcome, that pilot would be under the microscope.
As we approach Patient Safety Awareness Week this year, I hope we all can think about how we can celebrate patient safety and all the good that is happening to help make sure there are no more bad outcomes.  And if there are – we need to all be part of the discussion to make sure it never happens again.