Dennis Quaid the actor and prominent advocate for patient safety spoke at the National Press Club on April 12th on the serious medical problem that resulted when his newborn twin infants were given a massive overdose of the blood thinner heparin. After the near fatal incident, he launched the Quaid Foundation with his wife Kimberly to focus on preventing these types of potentially deadly medical errors in the future.
He recounted that two years ago his twin boys just ten days old were admitted to the hospital with infections requiring intravenous antibiotics. While he and his wife were in the hospital room, the nurse unintentionally gave the twins a thousand times the dosage of heparin that turned their blood into the consistency of water.
The next day, the twins bled all day profusely and were severely bruised from internal bleeding and screaming in pain. They were given an antidote for heparin but they keep bleeding and their lab tests remained off the chart. Finally after 41 hours, their coagulation levels dropped back into the normal range and the twins thankfully survived apparently with no damage.
When asked how this happened, Quaid said that after interviewing the doctors and nurses, they discovered that the bottles of the high dose and low dose medication looked very similar and since it was difficult to distinguish between the high and low dose, this is what led to the overdose of the twins. Unfortunately, the same error happened in Indianapolis the year before and caused three tragic deaths and injuries to a number of children.
As Quaid explained he did not come to speak on the topic of medical errors to denigrate doctors, nurses, pharmacists, caregivers, or the hospital. He pointed out that medical professionals are dedicated to their profession, overworked, underappreciated, but they are also human and all humans make mistakes.
The hospital is to be applauded for taking action. After the incident, the hospital put a great deal of time and money into electronic recordkeeping, bedside bar coding, checklists, installed more new technology, and conducted additional training, so that today, the hospital is a premier hospital on the cutting edge.
The actor has taken several steps to educate others on patient safety issues. On April 20th, he will be speaking at the Global Patient Safety Summit to be held in Nice, France where the documentary “Chasing Zero: Winning the War on Healthcare Harm” will be presented. It is slated to be released in the U.S. on April 24th on the Discovery Channel. The documentary will be given to every hospital board of directors in the country and will become a continuing education program for caregivers.
Also, Quaid was happy to announce that the National Quality Forum’s updated manual “Safe Practices for Better Healthcare” has just been released. According to Quaid, the 34 Safe Practices updated and outlined in the manual feature the tools needed to prevent healthcare errors and how to deal with common safety issues. He made it clear that this is a time for action and he is encouraging policymakers to tie the NQF safe practices to healthcare reform.
At this time in his battle for patient safety, Quaid feels the time is right for the Quaid Foundation to merge into the Texas Medical Institute of Technology. TMIT has been actively involved in a long-term collaboration with the Institute for Health Care Improvement and their projects. Quaid feels that he is not well suited as others to run a foundation and wants to see experts such as Dr. Charles Denham Chairman, of TMIT plus other experts in the field forge ahead to provide the safe practices needed to ensure safe and high performance medical care.