There are 600,000 physicians across the country, 5,000 hospitals. What happens behind these walls can be miraculous, but it can also be deadly.
Albert Wu, MD, said, "Every patient who is in the hospital is likely to be subjected to at least one medication error every day."
Doctor Albert Wu not only witnessed mistakes happen to patients. It happened to his own family.
Albert Wu said, "There were mistakes with my wife."
Four weeks pregnant, his wife Diana woke up with severe stomach pain.
Diana Sugg, Dr. Wu's wife, said, "The fever was so high; I definitely was so sick."
Albert Wu, MD, added, "We went straight to the emergency room."
She battled a mysterious illness for nine days. Scared of what might happen, Dr. Wu moved into her room and slept on the floor.
"I knew that if I was there, there was a chance that things perhaps might be averted."
Diana Sugg added, "I vaguely caught wind that there was another person on the floor with my same last name, and I know, one time they brought me her medicine, but Albert caught that."
Doctor Wu says you don't have to be a physician to catch mistakes. He believes patients need to take responsibility.
Albert Wu said, "Make sure you understand every single thing that's happening to you."
Ask questions even at the top rated hospitals mistakes happen.
Pediatric surgeon Pamela Gallin had her right hand operated on. The surgery went fine, but then, "My cast was too tight."
The cast caused nerve damage. Pamela needed two more surgeries to correct the problem.
"I couldn't operate. I'm right-handed. I couldn't lift things up."
Because her own surgeon dismissed her concerns Dr. Gallin wrote this book, How To Survive Your Doctor's Care.
Pamela Gallin said, "It's a job to be a patient. A great doctor doesn't just drop in your lap; you have to find them."
She believes when it comes to your health, choose wisely. If you don't like your doctor or hospital, change it. If you have questions about a lab result or treatment, speak up. When giving blood or specimens ask the nurse if you can check the label, and if the results are alarming, retake the test.
Pamela Gallin said, "Organize your own medical care to be on top of it."
Diana survived and went on to have a healthy baby boy. She says her husband's watchful eye kept her alive. All patients need someone on their side.
Albert Wu, MD, said, "Have someone with you in the hospital, 24 hours a day."
Pamela Gallin, MD, said, "Spend as much time picking your medical center and your doctor as you do buying a car."
Remember, errors are not rare. Some doctors believe they are the norm. It's up to patients to protect themselves.
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