A Medical Mistake? Yes. A Mistake? Uh… Reflections on Our Appearance with Katie Couric

AUTHOR: | POSTED: February 19, 2013 | COMMENTS: 6 Comments

Carolyn Savage

Our appearance on the Katie Couric Show is scheduled to air Wednesday, February 20, 2013.  A preview of the show can be seen here.


I always cringe a little when referring to my fourth pregnancy as a mistake.  Obviously I understand that my unintended pregnancy with the genetic child of another couple was, indeed, the result of an egregious medical error, but there’s always a part of me that worries about the precious life that resulted from that pregnancy being viewed as a mistake.  The sweet little boy I gave birth to in September 2009 has a purposeful life.  He was conceived out of love and carried into this world with even more love (if that’s possible).  When someday he learns of the circumstances surrounding his birth I don’t want him to think for even a milli-second that he was a mistake.

That being said, I realize after having time to gain perspective on our journey, that the circumstances that led to my pregnancy with “L” should never have happened.  No woman should ever be forced into a situation like mine.  It was cruel and painful.  I know I write a lot here about how thankful I am for the journey I’ve traveled , and I am, but I worry about the day my phone will ring and a voice on the other end will cry out because she too has been the victim of a ridiculous error in a fertility clinic.  That will be a sad for me which is why I will do anything to help prevent that from happening to another mother and family.

So, I have a balancing act that plays out in my head.  On one hand I don’t want “L’s” life equated with a mistake.  On the other hand I don’t ever want what happened to us to happen to anyone else.

Let the tug-of-war begin.

When the Katie Show called and asked us to participate in a show about medical mistakes I had to squelch my initial desire to lash out in defense of my fourth baby’s life.  I’ve gotten better at that over the past four years.  I realize now that the medical mistake that led to my pregnancy and the life that resulted are not the same thing.  Perhaps bringing awareness to the mistake is one of the ways I can honor the gift of my fourth baby’s life.

So Sean and I talk.  We talk long and hard about the medical blunder we endured in hopes that someone who needs to hear our story will listen.  Maybe by talking about what happened we can help another mother, or family avoid walking the same path.

Of course the appearance on The Katie Show was full of excitement.  Fancy hotel rooms, black sedan car services, drivers and hair and make up people are always a treat.  Meeting Katie Couric, a journalist and woman I’ve watched and admired for a very long time, was an honor.  It might be easy to get caught up in the novelty of the experience if it weren’t for the sobering message of the show. It was when I met the other guests, that the horror of medical mistakes slapped me hard in the heart.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I survived my mistake.  100,000 people each year don’t.

One of the other guests especially touched my heart.  Lenore Alexander was the victim of a medical mistake, but she paid the ultimate price and now has to live my worst nightmare.  She lost her eleven year old daughter to a medical error and I could see in her eyes that her life will never be the same.  Leah, Lenore’s daughter, underwent an elective surgery to fix a congenital bone deformity in her sternum.  After Leah’s surgery an epidural was used for pain management.  When Lenore and her husband voiced post operative concerns about the ineffectiveness of the epidural and narcotics, their pleas were ignored.  After an exhausting night, Lenore shut her eyes in Leah’s hospital room, and awoke at 3 am to find her sweet daughter dead in her hospital bed.  Leah had been over dosed with Fentanyl by a malfunctioning epidural.

Lenore now speaks to anyone who will listen about the need for post operative heart and respiratory monitoring whenever narcotics are being administered for pain management.  If Leah had, had such monitoring, the physicians and nurses would have seen that something was amiss with the epidural and Leah’s life would have been spared.

Lenore blames herself for not making more of a fuss in the hospital that day, but admits she was hesitant.  “We are all taught deference to doctors and nurses.  I’m not medically trained.  Who was I to argue with them, after all, they are the professionals.  Right?”

I can relate to Lenore’s attitude of submission.

I’ve always been taught to respect those in the medical field.  I’ve often quipped that if I’d sat up in the transfer room with my feet in the stirrups and asked,”Are you sure those (embryos) are ours?” my words would have gone over like a lead filled balloon.  Oh how I wish I would have more seriously advocated for myself and my family on the day of my transfer because there was a red flag a few minutes before my procedure.  When the nurse asked me to verify my personal identifying information on my medical wrist band, instead of making a joke about how my birth date was wrong (they had my year of birth as 1967 instead of 1969) I might have demanded they stop everything to make sure their sh*t was in order.  When the nurse took a ball point pen from her pocket and changed the ‘7’ to a ‘9’ I wish I wouldn’t have shrugged it off, eager to move on with the procedure.  I had no idea a mistake of this magnitude could even happen.  Getting pregnant with someone else’s baby was a situation that never ever entered my mind.

Hindsight is 20/20, but awareness can also help with prevention.

I’m not a medical professional so I can’t give advice on how best to advocate for your safety when in a medical setting, however, I can shout my story from every roof top in hopes of raising awareness and protecting others.

That’s what Lenore is doing and I commend her for her bravery.  (You can read more about Lenore’s experience and mission here.)

In the United States, 100,000 people die every year as a result of medical mistakes. That’s more  than breast cancer and auto accident deaths combined.  This is a serious problem, folks.  I implore you to watch The Katie Show tomorrow and to protect yourself and your family.

My radar is up.  Your’s should be too.


Some helpful patient safety advocacy sites.

National Patient Safety Foundation has some wonderful tools to download and read that will help you stay safe during a medical procedure.

About .com also has a wonderful article about keeping yourself safe during medical procedures.

The Physician-Patient Health Alliance for Safety also has great tools and resources for keeping you safe.










6 Comments on “ A Medical Mistake? Yes. A Mistake? Uh… Reflections on Our Appearance with Katie Couric ”

  • @georgecharo | February 20th, 2013 2:48 pm

    The problem is that! The hospital does not take responsible to. Dill with the patient very well.

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  • Erin | February 20th, 2013 4:06 pm

    I just watched you on Katie Couric and not too long ago saw you on another show. I want you to know that you touched my heart. The grace and love you show when telling your story is a testament to your faith and God’s love. Thank you for sharing your story, and know that it makes a difference.

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  • Carolyn Savage | February 21st, 2013 8:24 pm

    Erin, Thanks so much for your message. I hope and pray every single day that sharing our story is the right thing to do. I worry sometimes about over exposing our family and everyone else involved. Making a difference is what we are trying to do, however, so hopefully we have made the right choice.

    I’m glad to hear from you here! Welcome! I hope you’ll visit often.

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  • Mindy | February 20th, 2013 11:20 pm

    Hi !!
    I just wanted to tell u I was in the audience when the show was taped!
    You smiled at me at the very end while the audience was leaving.
    You are an amazing strong person!! You gave an infinity of eternal joy to someone.
    All The best to you and your family especially those stunning twins.

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  • Carolyn Savage | February 21st, 2013 8:23 pm

    Hi Mindy, I wish we had more of an opportunity to hang out at the end of the taping. That’s only the second time we had been in front of a studio audience and I always feel funny afterwards because we didn’t get a chance to really interact with the audience.

    Anyways, thanks for the kind words. They mean a lot to Sean and I.

    I hope you’ll stick around!

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  • Jessica | February 27th, 2013 8:35 pm

    I just finally had a chance to watch your appearance on the Katie show and you did amazing. You are so poised and I’m in awe of your ability to smile through all of this. Thinking of you as always, I’m sure reliving this is the press lately has been difficult.

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