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Human Error in Healthcare

by Michael Sheil

I am a football player, and as a football player, I am constantly encouraged to play through
pain. This means it is critical to be given accurate information about whether the pain I am
feeling is just an annoyance, or if there is a serious medical issue causing it. This way I know
whether playing through pain is risking my athletic career.

It was the 3rd practice of my Junior Year football season. I caught a kick return in a live drill
and was brought to the ground shortly after by a teammate. As I got up I noticed a sharp pain in
my hip, then I started having trouble picking my leg up. After practice I couldn’t raise my knee
from a sitting position, at this point I knew something was wrong. I immediately went to a Doctor
to get X-Rays and an evaluation. I was told nothing was wrong with my X-Rays and that muscle
exhaustion was most likely the reason I couldn’t pick up my knee. Over the next two weeks, I
practiced as the pain slowly got better. Of course, I practiced, because I was told by a medical
professional that nothing was wrong. Then came the first scrimmage of the year. By this point,
the pain had faded into a small pinch. On the second play, I caught a pass and ran up the
sideline, and was hit. As I hit the ground I felt the same pain as I did on the 3rd practice, except
this time it was amplified 10 times. Not only was there immense pain in my right hip, but it also shot
down into my knee and ankle. I was taken to the hospital and once there I was given a CT scan
that again I was told showed nothing. This time the doctor suggested I could have a hip flexor
strain which has a timetable of 2 to 6 weeks for a return to play. Thinking I dodged a bullet I began
to rehab to return for our 4th game in 5 weeks. The next day I saw the first doctor who agreed
my CT scan showed nothing. 4th game it was. After a few weeks, I decided to get an MRI
because I was not progressing as I should’ve been. Nonetheless, I continued moving forward
and started practicing to play in the 4th game. This is when my MRI results came back. The MRI showed a fractured Lesser Trochanter in the hip, 2 ruptured hip flexor tendons, and a ruptured
piriformis muscle. I had been running around on this injury, and I own some of the faults for not
listening to my body. However, I was operating under the medical advice of two doctors, that this
was not a serious injury. To this day I believe that my original X-Ray had that same Lesser
Trochanter fracture on it to a smaller degree. Unfortunately, I will never know for sure. However, I
did receive closure on the CT scan. The third doctor I saw, after the season, looked through the
CT scan from the hospital was taken 2 months ago. He pointed out the clear fracture in the femur,
something that would’ve prevented me from extending the damage further on an already horrific
injury, had I known. To this day I don’t know how much additional damage that caused, but what
I do know is how close I came to losing my career. It would be 9 months after the original injury
before I would run full speed again. 18 months until I was pain-free. No doctor could give me an
answer on if the fracture would ever fully heal until it did 8 stressful months later. This is not me
saying all doctors are bad though. Without the help of the third doctor and physical therapist I
would never have been able to return to the field more than a year after the injury and win all-conference, all-region awards, and go on to play football at the college level.

There are two public health problems in this story, the first being injury from athletics. However,
the one I will be focusing on is medical malpractice. Medical Malpractice is the 3rd leading
cause of death in the U.S(1). There is no good way to tell how many other people have been
affected but not killed because so many people never file for lawsuits(1,2). People that could
experience this problem are anyone seeing a doctor for medical evaluation or treatment(1,3).
The most common causes of medical malpractice are doctors giving patients the wrong
medication or wrong dosage of a medication, complications from an operation, or computer
issues that cause incorrect treatment. (1,4)

The Emily Jerry Foundation is committed to training pharmacy technicians and educating
medication safety. The Third-Leading Cause of Death in Us Most Doctors Don’t Want You to
Know About (1,5). CNBC.
http://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-america.html.
. This is to reduce the risk of patients receiving improper dosages of their medications(1,6).
They do this by providing training to pharmacy technicians(1,7). They also released a feature on
their website that gives grades out state by state on how well their pharmacy technicians are
trained (2,1). One thing you can do to reduce the risk of medical malpractice is to be thorough with
your doctor. Doctors are the experts but they are also human. If there is anything you feel has
not been addressed or something that feels like incorrect procedure make sure to speak up. You
can also use the scorecard found on The Emily Jerry Foundation Website, to see the level of
training the technicians giving you medicine have (2,2).

References

Sipherd, Ray. “The Third-Leading Cause of Death in Us Most Doctors Don’t Want You to
Know About.” CNBC, CNBC, 28 Feb. 2018,
http://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-america.html.
Pietravoia, Nick. “Virginia Scorecard.” Emily Jerry Foundation, 7 Aug. 2021,
https://emilyjerryfoundation.org/virginia-scorecard/.

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