Dennis Quaid and his wife, Kimberly, talk about the first few days of their twins' lives.

Every year in the United States, more people die from medical mistakes than from breast cancer, AIDS and car accidents…combined. "It's a major, major health issue that will touch almost every single American at one point in our lives," Oprah says.

In November 2007, one such mistake almost took the lives of infant twins, the children of actor Dennis Quaid and his wife, Kimberly.

Dennis and Kimberly's story begins with two small blessings, Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace. "We were so happy to be able to be blessed by those two," Dennis says. "They both came out so perfect."

Days after the twins came home from the hospital, however, they developed serious staph infections. Doctors told Dennis and Kimberly to take their newborns to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where they were given antibiotics intravenously.

On their second day at Cedars-Sinai, Dennis says the twins seemed to be doing well, so he and his wife went home to get some rest. That night, Kimberly says she had an overwhelming feeling that something was wrong. Dennis called the hospital to check on their children, but a nurse assured him everything was fine.

They found out later that, at the time of the call, Thomas and Zoe were actually in serious danger.
Dennis Quaid talks about the medical mistake that threatened his infants' lives.

When they arrived at Cedars-Sinai the next morning, members of the medical staff were waiting with terrible news. "This started probably the worst day of our lives," Dennis says.

Watch Dennis and Kimberly recount their story. Watch

The Quaids learned that nurses had accidentally given their children two powerful doses of Heparin, a blood thinner that's prescribed to keep IV lines clear and prevent blood clots. "They got a thousand times the dose of Heparin that they were supposed to get," Dennis says. "They were supposed to get 10 units of Heparin, and they got 10,000 units of Heparin—twice. That's when their blood turned to the consistency of water."

When the Quaids finally saw their babies, Kimberly says they were black and blue. "It was a bad sight," she says. "They were bleeding out."
How nurses gave the wrong dosage of blood thinner to the Quaid twins

A series of errors led to the overdose that left little Thomas and Zoe fighting for their lives. First, a pharmacy technician made a mistake and put larger-dose bottles of Heparin in the same bin with the smaller-dose bottles.

Then, the nurse caring for the Quaid babies grabbed a bottle out of the bin without checking the label. The 10,000-unit and 10-unit bottles are similar in color, and some say it's difficult to tell them apart.

Dennis says nurses across the country have made the same mistake. "A very similar incident killed three infants in Indianapolis a year before that," he says. "Even after our incident, two other fraternal twins in Texas, in Corpus Christi, died last summer because of this."

Most people—including parents—don't question nurses and medical technicians enough, Dr. Oz says. In fact, Dennis claims his twins' first overdose occurred while he and Kimberly were in the hospital room. "The nurse came in to change the medication, and we were there," he says. "At the time, we weren't really informed."
Dennis Quaid hopes his family's story raises public awareness.

For 40 hours, doctors monitored the Quaid twins closely. Dennis and Kimberly say they were in a state of shock. "It was like the floor was pulled from under our feet. I didn't understand it, to tell you the truth," Dennis says. "It was the scariest day of our lives."

After two days, the twins' health began to improve as the blood thinner wore off. When they were sleeping comfortably, Dennis says he realized Thomas and Zoe survived this ordeal for a reason. "[I thought,] 'These two little kids, 12 days old, they're going to change the world in some way,'" he says.

Now, Dennis knows why this happened to his family. "I think that the reason is to raise public awareness and to get something done about computerized record keeping and bar coding in hospitals," he says. "That's going to save lives—a lot of lives."
Dennis Quaid returns to Cedars-Sinai for the first time.

In February 2009, Dennis returned to Cedars-Sinai for the first time since his twins were sent home. "Being here brings back a lot of memories…not all of them good," he says. "But today, I feel like it's a day to really go forward."

Dennis meets Linda Burnes Bolton, the chief nursing officer who was called in the night his twins were given an overdose of Heparin. Linda says that night was life-changing for the nursing staff. "It was a wake-up call," she says. "It served as a catalyst to find ways to prevent those errors."

Cedars-Sinai has invested more than $100 million in new technology to make sure this kind of mistake never happens again. They've installed a computer bar code system for their medications, which helps to eliminate human error. Dr. Oz compares this technology to grocery store scanners.

Patient information must also be entered into a computer and is then checked multiple times. These computers are linked to automatic dispensing machines. "The key to this is that it dispenses only that dose that's ordered," Linda says.

Dennis says he applauds Cedars-Sinai for stepping up to the plate. "They spent a substantial amount of money, and they were very concerned about alleviating this [problem]," he says. "I think they really are up at the top now as far as raising the standard of care."
Dr. Oz says many factors contribute to medical mistakes.

Dr. Oz says many factors contribute to medical mistakes. First, he says doctors shouldn't be using pens and pencils—19th-century tools—in a 21st-century world. "Computerized order entry and, more importantly, these bar coding systems that Dennis is talking about have dramatically changed the way practice is conducted in hospitals," Dr. Oz says.

Over the past five years, Dr. Oz says hospitals that have adopted the "grocery store" system have eliminated dosage errors. "We're not talking about a small little jump here," he says. "We're talking about a dramatic shift."

Mistakes also happen because hospitals are busy places. "There's a lot of things happening at once. People get tired," Dr. Oz says. "They get interrupted all the time."

How can you protect yourself? Dr. Oz says everyone in America must learn to be a smarter patient .
Since they left the hospital, Dennis Quaid says his twins have thrived.

Since they left the hospital, Dennis says his twins have thrived. "They're just little toddlers, and they're healthy and they're happy and they're growing," he says.

What's in store for their future? Dennis predicts that Thomas will play football for the University of Texas, while Zoe will rule the world.

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