I am Dr. Fred Southwick. My Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI) Fellowship at Harvard University (2010-2011) has inspired me to create this website.
I am both a caregiver and a victim of medical errors. I suffered an above the knee amputation in September 2012 as a delayed complication of a 1995 left achilles tendon repair. A large pressure cuff used to prevent bleeding during surgery was set at too high a pressure and was left on for too long, damaging all the arteries below my left knee. After surgery I ignored the blue color of my foot after swimming thinking this was the result of mild nerve damage from my operation.
I continued my active athletic career as a masters rower, mountain biker, and swimmer. I subsequently learned that these activities helped me to develop an extensive network collateral vessels in my damaged leg that compensated for the loss of blood flow from my major blood vessels. This collateral circulation prevented any significant pain for 17 years. However, on July 4th weekend of 2012 I experienced what I thought was a severe calf pull that failed to respond to rest or massage. When my foot turned white I realized that the pain was due to a poor blood supply to my leg and I sought medical attention. The vascular surgeons were dumbfounded when the angiogram revealed complete occlusion of all 3 vessels below my left knee. All my other vessels conducted blood normally. I had no risk factors for atherosclerosis. In addition to exercising 5 days per week, I had a normal serum cholesterol and blood sugar. I had no family history of atherosclerosis and I had never smoked. Because there were no patent vessels below my left knee the surgeons had no choice but to amputate my leg above the knee.
I am now struggling to learn how to walk with a prosthesis, and my residual limb pain has intermittently limited my progress. However, I am slowly improving.
The irony of my predicament is that I have dedicated my recent medical career to preventing medical errors, and just recently published a book on the subject entitled: CRITICALLY ILL: A 5-Point Plan to Cure Healthcare Delivery that outlines how nurses, patients, administrators, and physicians can all work together to progressively improve the quality and safety of care. As a Professor Medicine and Infectious Disease Consultant at the University of Florida I have recently taken on a new role. I am investigating how best to improve the way we care for patients in our hospital. I am applying athletic principles and manufacturing principles to improve teamwork and improve the reliability of how we care for our patients. I then hope to spread these improvements to hospitals and clinics throughout the world. I recognize my plan is ambitious, but personal experience has further emphasized the importance of my goal, and with your help I believe we can succeed.
I realize that I am not alone in suffering from a life-altering preventable medical error. I know that there are millions of you out there, and I want to hear your stories and harness the energy of your suffering to convert each of you from a victim to a survivor. Also I want to know how you recovered from your loss. What strategies did you use to bounce back. We all need to practice resilience.
Action converts victims to survivors. We all need to act!
Action Plan – collect our stories of loss and recovery and present them to
- our medical centers
- our legislators
- medical societies
- internet blogs
- wherever their is an audience.
You have suffered too long in silence. Our stories promise to touch the heart. Emotional identification encourages commitment and motivates change. Remember at least 1 million patients per year are suffering life-altering injuries. You are now suffering the consequences of such an injury, and like me, I am sure you want to prevent other patients from suffering the same fate.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE