Mom Still Wants Apology 12 Years After Son's Death....
On Monday of last week (May 13th), Sorry Works! invited Leilani Schweitzer to tell her story of disclosure after the death of her son to medical errors and how she now works with the hospital (Stanford Medical Center) on disclosure cases. Very moving story. Well, as a contrast, I am sharing below a blog post written by another mother, Dale Ann Micalizzi, and how she is still waiting for an apology 12 years after the death of her son. Also very moving story. Many of you know Dale --- she is a very powerful and effective patient safety advocate.
See below for Dale's words, and as you read Dale's words and compare them with Leilani's words ask yourself a couple simple questions: "How should our hospital, medical practice, or nursing home respond to adverse medical events? Have we trained our staff how to respond to adverse medical events, and do we have a program that allows us to be pro-active and act with integrity post-event?"
Is there Humanity in Medicine? By Dale Ann Micalizzi
There was a message on our answering machine when my husband arrived home for lunch break. He looked at the caller ID and immediately called me at work. He said that it was from the involved hospital and he didn’t listen to the call as he wanted me to hear it first. I called my daughter and told a few close colleagues. I was going to live in the moment for awhile. Could it be that they were changing heart?
The thoughts came barreling back with hesitance and gusto. WHAT DID THEY WANT? Were they going to sue me for telling Justin’s story (many families carry umbrella insurance policies for this reason) or were they going to finally come clean over 12 years later? Leaving someone in limbo after an adverse medical event should be criminal. They finally wanted to make amends, we thought. They were ashamed and they wanted to make things right.
I had just finished writing commentary for a healthcare leader’s new book explaining that I was still waiting for this moment of compassion.
Wonder if they wanted to know, after all of these years, what could possibly help us close a bit and continue on with a better feeling about humanity in medicine. Would I invite them to our home for coffee and cake? What should I serve them? Hmmm
Would I invite the kids to the meeting? What would my husband tell them? He was excited, too. He said that he would attend as long as the CEO, who we had dealt with in the past, had left, and he had.
I think that I would show them Justin’s bedroom, somewhat still in tact. Would I ask them to clean it? Would I explain how he received the shelf full of trophies for BMX racing, bowling and basketball? Would I show them the signed memorabilia from his favorite sports teams or would I just walk them in and say, it’s been too sad to go through the school papers and projects and simply walk out. That was personal. I will do it when and if I’m ready.
I wondered if they would name a playroom after Justin or a patient safety program focusing on my work. Do they even know what I’ve done? They would help me save children’s lives.
My friend had surgery at that hospital a few weeks prior and was afraid to tell me “where” she was having the procedure but finally did with tears in her eyes and her head down. She wrote a letter to the hospital when she returned home about my work and why she was hesitant to tell me where her surgeon was doing the surgery. I thought that this note to the CEO had inspired them to finally call with an intention to make amends….and apologize. If anyone could make them become human, she could.
As an attorney stated at a conference where we presented together recently, “They will NEVER contact you, Dale.” I couldn’t speak for the rest of the talk as she had crushed my hope and told the room full of health caregivers that that’s the way it is. If you permit, you promote and she was promoting secrecy, and I wasn’t going to be a part of that. So, I thought, HA!! They did contact me and they really do care. You were wrong!
When I shared this new development with friends, they simply stated that they thought that the hospital wanted to forget that Justin or I ever existed. They are heartless and archaic in their views of patient and family centered care, was their take. What ignited their integrity, finally? It could be nothing, I told them.
As we have all learned, everyone is not nice.
Well, I returned home thinking about it all day and gently pushed the button on the answering mhine. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
This could be a healing moment or another roller coaster ride of emotions. I had hope.
It was my husband’s friend thinking that he had had a heart attack……he didn’t. He just wanted to talk while he was waiting. He is a hospital frequent flyer and never thought that it would be upsetting to us to see the location of his call. He could have used his cell.
So, my bubble burst again. The attorney and my friends were right. False alarm…. noheart but a good lesson in preparedness. The old pain is alive and well buried deep inside and easily uncovered always still waiting for a cure.
Why do we still have forgiveness in our hearts that we want to convey to this hospital that “cared” for Justin when they finally tell us the truth? What keeps us humane and keeps them evil? Why do we still wait with a very slight glimmer of hope?
A hospital is merely a building with brick walls and there are some new people there that want to look forward and are not worried about what happened 12 years ago. They don’t want to learn from the past failures. It wasn't their child.