Patty Skolnik’s Medical Awakening Story

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I was a social worker for many years, and worked in a medical clinic doing short-term intervention counseling, before moving on to the corporate world. But nothing in my life would prepare me for the loss of our only child after his sudden exposure to a very broken medical system.

Michael was 22 when he passed out at home one day. Doctors said he needed surgery to remove a cyst on his brain. It was supposed to be a three-hour surgery; six and a half hours the doctor didn’t find the cyst. But they caused terrible damage to Michael’s brain. He lost the ability to walk, see and speak, could not eat and was psychotic. Our son would spend the rest of his life in ICUs and hospitals needing round-the-clock care. Michael knew what had happened to him. He suffered every single day. The last six months we moved our son home, where we’d built our own ICU. My husband David and I always hoped against hope for a miracle. But one day, 32 months after it all began, Michael took his last breath, mouthed the words “I love you”, and died.

Before our brutal medical awakening, Michael had loved the medical field and had just started nursing school. I promised him that I would have a mission: to leave the medical industry better then he found it. I made this promise to him right before he died. Citizens for Patient Safety is that promise in action — educating patients and medical teams about issues like informed consent and transparency — doing whatever we can to train consumers and health professionals to partner with one another, and to do it with dignity and respect.

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