Every hospital patient needs someone with them at all times to help prevent medical errors and keep them safe. That’s a mantra I have advocated for years, and another example of why it’s good advice comes with a riveting story in the Washington Post by health writer Sandra Boodman.
Ms. Boodman’s article tells how a Washington area woman’s advocacy in the emergency room and hospital helped lead to a correct diagnosis of baffling symptoms, and likely saved her sick daughter from harm. The article interviews Patricia Dawn about her 4-year-old daughter Brooke’s illness, that was eventually discovered to be Kawasaki disease, an unusual heart condition.
Brooke got the right treatment in time, but only because of her mother’s persistence. Mrs. Dawn refused the recommendation of the emergency room doctors to take her daughter home at 2 a.m. when she wasn’t feeling any better but they had run out of things to do. At her insistence, her daughter was hospitalized, and an infectious disease specialist eventually figured out that the red lips, red eyes, fever longer than five days, and swollen lymph node in the neck all were signs of Kawasaki, which affects about 2,000 American children a year.
It was also at the family’s suggestion that the infectious disease doctor was brought in who made the correct diagnosis.
The story underlines the importance of having a good advocate present at all times with a patient in the hospital. Even a lay advocate can see when symptoms aren’t improving and can insist on action.
I discuss this subject in depth in Chapter 12 of my book, “The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care — and Avoiding the Worst.”