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Personal Stories

I was fired for reporting hospital pharmacy errors

Monday, 16 February 2009

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My story is coming from the hospital side.  Back in 2003 I was employed as a pharmacy technician and due to huge changes in the hospital we ended up with a new pharmacist that was making errors.  When I went to her to let her know what I was finding she became angry.  Medications errors were getting on to the floors and one of them was adult doses of Heparin in the maternity ward where the infant doses were supposed to be. 


When nothing was being done, I moved up the ladder to the VP in charge of the pharmacy.  When that didn't work I went to the President.  The President followed up and went to the VP, who in turn became angry because I went over her head.  She came down to the pharmacy one night and called me in this tiny office.  She began to tell me that I was to shut my mouth and stay off the 2nd floor (administration wing).  If I was caught up there again she would take further steps and I would lose my job.  She asked me if what she had said was clear, and I responded, crystal. 


However, I didn't stop and kept reporting the errors.  She hired back an old technician that had quit, demoted me, reduced my pay and blacklisted me.  I was eventually called up to administration, and in 2005 I was fired and escorted out of the hospital.  Everyone knew what was going on, but because of some unspoken code, no one stepped forward and stood my me.  


I was sent home, humiliated and broken to tell my family what had happened.  I had two small children at the time and my husband was a stay at home Dad and my income was the only one.  We were left without any income or insurance because I didn't want to be part of an error that could kill someone.  


If I had it to do over again, I would do the same thing.  Only this time I would document the things I found, I would have recorded the VP that threatened me and anything else that would back up my accusations.  It all happened so fast, but the worse part is that the errors still happened after I left. I found this out by a nurse that was no longer employed by the hospital.  


I filed a complaint with the state under the Whistle Blowers Protection Act.  Because no one would step forward, no documentation, I had little to go on.  Others that worked with the VP that threatened me all stood together and said that I was a trouble maker.  The state worked with an attorney that the hospital hired and the lies that were said about me were devastating.  I had never felt so helpless in my life, especially using the avenues that were designed to help someone who stepped forward because it was the right thing to do.


I am so sorry that you had to go through what you did with your twins.  That is exactly the thing I was trying to fight against.  Maybe if someone had listened to me, that wouldn't have happened.  I was again sickened when I read about the three premies at the Methodist Hospital that were given the adult doses of Heparin and died.  I was glad to read about your foundation and I hope in some way my story can help.   


My prayers go out to your family and anyone who has or will have to experience anything like this.  These were preventable errors.


Emma's Angel Wings

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

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Below was written my daughter, I hope that her story will help bring awareness to this problem so that another family will not have to go thru what we did.  How I miss my little Emma..................



Click to continue


Human Error

Thursday, 29 January 2009

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Dear Quaid Foundation,


     My name is Betsy Potocik and I am a Registered Nurse at Shands Hospital @ the University of Florida.  Shands @ the UF has been named one of the top 10 hospitals in the US  for multiple years.  I am very proud to have worked at Shands for over 22 years.  I presently sit on the Staff Advisory Council which includes Nursing staff and the VP of Nursing.  Our mission is to discuss hospital problems as they effect Nursing and work with the many hospital departments to resolve them.  At the last meeting, the "Smart Pump" was discussed and how it would help to prevent intravenous infusion errors because it could be programed by Pharmacy to set limits on the known 'High Risk' medications, such as heparin.  This was well received by the Nursing staff,  everyone was in favor of whatever it takes to evert a human medical error and save a life.  The bottom line from management was that these pumps are too expensive.  The Nursing Staff expressed the desire to have a 'Smart Pump" dispensed with every 'High Risk ' medication.  This may not eliminate medical errors, but certainly worth a try. 



   Injury to health care workers by needle sticks was not mandatory until a Federal law was passed which forced the needleless system.  The same Federal law must be passed because of the all mighty dollar being more important than human life. 


     I wonder how the Executives can sleep at night.  I would like to help.




Betsy Potocik, R.N.


Horribly Botched Cancer Misdiagnosis (story featured on The Discovery Health Channel)

Sunday, 25 January 2009

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In 1989, my father died of a medical error.  He was having surgery for an aneurysm.  He did well after surgery, however he suddenly took a downhill course. The hospital told us he had a complication from surgery.  We investigated and found out what really happened.  A nurse accidentally cut off his oxygen supply while he was recovering.  He developed irreversible brain damage (clinically “brain dead.”) and died of a pulmonary embolism two days later.


A decade later I almost died of a medical error.  This is my story …


My Colon Cancer was misdiagnosed for two-and-a-half years.  I trusted my doctor when he told me there was nothing seriously wrong with me.  Trusting the wrong doctor almost killed me.  This is my experiences in chronological order.


April 1997


Began to have mild abdominal pain and increased frequency of bowel movements.  Was suggested to take over-the-counter medications.


May 1997


The abdominal problems continued and was seen by family doctor, who ordered a sigmoidoscopy.  The sigmoidoscopy results were normal.  At this time, I never considered that anything serious could be happening since I was a young guy who took care of myself.  (The sigmoidoscopy only examines the left portion of the colon.  My tumor was on the right side, where the sigmoidoscope cannot reach.  A colonoscopy, which examines the entire colon, would have found the right-sided tumor.  My doctor never told me I was getting a partial examination.  Having a sigmoidoscopy as opposed to a colonoscopy, makes about as much sense as having half a mammogram!)


March 1998


I visited my family doctor due to nausea and diarrhea.  No tests were done and was suggested to take over-the-counter medications. 


August 1998


Experienced rectal bleeding one weekend and contacted my family doctor who suggested I go to the ER.  The ER decided to keep me overnight for observation.  At the time, they also discovered I had a mild case of food poisoning.  The food poisoning issue was taken care of and the rectal bleeding was not studied further.  The rectal bleeding episode was very frightening since there was significant blood in the stool.


October 1998


Another case of rectal bleeding.  Doctor considered this to be hemorrhoids and did no further tests.  .


April 1999


Another case of rectal bleeding.  My doctor still considered this to be hemorrhoids but did suggest another sigmoidoscopy.  This was the worst episode of rectal bleeding. I passed out from the blood loss. After fainting, I came to on the bathroom floor. I was lying in a pool of my own blood. It looked like a scene from a grizzly horror movie.


May 1999


We switched insurance companies at this time.  We made the switch because we wanted a better plan – our decision had nothing to do with our doctor, who we trusted was helping me.


August 1999


In the early part of the month, began to experience severe abdominal pain and went to see a NEW family doctor, who examined me and did a CBC (Complete Blood Count).  The CBC indicated anemia and my doctor referred me to a gastroenterologist.  The gastroenterologist did a colonoscopy, which revealed a right-sided tumor.  I had surgery at the end of August, which revealed an advanced stage of Colon Cancer (Stage III Colon Cancer, which means the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes). My family and I were stunned at the news.  I decided it is time to take charge and play an active role in my treatment.  I did constant research on colon cancer.


September 1999


At the end of the month, chemotherapy treatments were initiated.  During chemotherapy treatments, I did experience significant nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  Treatments had to be postponed several times due to a chemotherapy-induced weakened immune system


August 2000


Completed chemotherapy treatments.




In 2009, I will be ten years cancer free from the date of my official diagnosis (not the date of the initial symptoms).  I believe it is a miracle that I am alive today after having my cancer misdiagnosed for such a long time.




* We must take an active role in our healthcare.  In addition to learning about our disease and associated treatments, we must also study appropriate tests.  At the time, I thought the sigmoidoscopy was a complete colon examination.


* An illness may be less common in certain groups, but it can still happen.  Colon Cancer is primarily an older person’s disease; ninety percent of cases are in people 50 and over.  When my abdominal problems began, I was in my 30’s; colon cancer is less common at that age, but obviously it can occur.




The national media discovered my story and was stunned.  I have been interviewed by Katie Couric and Montel Williams.  Multiple newspapers and magazines publish information about my story.  My story has been featured on the Discovery Health Channel Show, Mystery Diagnosis.  Since my story has appeared in the national media thousands of people have contacted me to describe their nightmare stories.  Many people went to on be screened for colon cancer. I know lives were saved. Here is a clip of my appearance on the Montel Williams Show (my wife, Beth, also appears on the show):


I am in the speaking / training field; after my horribly botched medical care, I decided to focus my work on helping healthcare professionals more effectively communicate with patients.  It has been estimated that miscommunication accounts for about 60% of medical errors.  Visit our website: I have also set up a Twitter account and blog to discuss healthcare issues:


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Quaid Discusses Medical Mistakes

Quaid spoke at the HIMSS09 this year. Read this article of the discussion and speech that Dennis gave as a keynote speaker.

See the full article here...


Important Messsage

Our experience has shown that medication errors can and do occur at hospitals throughout the country, even the best ones like Cedars-Sinai.  We now want to work with hospitals to help support their efforts to eliminate medication errors.

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