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SORREL KING | G Force

Telling ‘Josie’s Story’

“I did everything I could have done and it didn’t work out,’’ says Sorrel King, author of “Josie’s Story,’’ about the death of her daughter in 2001 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “I did everything I could have done and it didn’t work out,’’ says Sorrel King, author of “Josie’s Story,’’ about the death of her daughter in 2001 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
October 19, 2009

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Everyone thought little Josie King would be fine. She was recovering at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore from burns suffered after falling into a bathtub of scalding water. But instead of coming home, the 18-month-old died of dehydration. In the eight years since her death, her mother, Sorrel King, has made improving patient safety her mission. The Josie King Foundation - started with a settlement from the hospital, which acknowledged a series of errors in the death - has pushed for family-activated rapid response teams in hospitals to improve communication during a crisis. King’s book, “Josie’s Story,’’ was published last month. She will speak in Boston tomorrow at the consumer group Health Care for All, 30 Winter St. - the talk is open to the public; RSVP to dwachenheim@hcfama.org - and will address hospital board members assembled by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts on Wednesday. She spoke to us by phone from her home in Baltimore last week.

ELIZABETH COONEY

Q. What went wrong for your daughter?

A. Josie did not die from one doctor’s mistake or one nurse’s mistake. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was a breakdown in communication, it was a breakdown in the system. She died because the nurses and doctors didn’t listen to me when I said, ‘Wait a minute, something’s not right.’ The [doctor] didn’t listen to the nurse, and they didn’t listen to each other.

Q. How do people in the medical profession generally receive your story?

A. My message is a message that no one else can really deliver. Sometimes it takes a real story to get into the hearts and into the souls of the people I talk to. They get the data from statistics that [up to] 98,000 people die from medical errors every year. I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert on this. I can’t talk about what the best technology or the best practices are, but by gum, I can tell them about communication.

Q. What’s your advice for parents?

A. First, trust and have faith. No doctor, no nurse ever plans to go to work with the intention of harming anyone. Second, keep track of information. Third, never, ever be afraid to ask a question or to speak up or to say I don’t understand or I’m scared. Fourth, don’t be afraid to ask doctors and nurses to wash their hands. I did all that stuff. I did everything I could have done and it didn’t work out. If the same thing happened today, I would have called the family-activated rapid response team. She’d be alive today. There’s no doubt in my mind.

Interview was condensed and edited.

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