Dennis Quaid's Medical Nightmare
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.
Watch Dennis and Kimberly recount their story.
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."
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."
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 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."
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 .
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.