This is the story of what happened to my wife, Pam, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in March of 2002.
I write this story for Pam because she endured so much unnecessary suffering at Hopkins, and because—beyond the scars and the physical insult and injury she endured—there lingers something just as hurtful: Hokpins’ refusal to acknowledge that they failed in their duty to care for her. Johns Hopkins is a great institution, revered by many, and when an icon of American medicine casts you aside as non-creditable goods, it hurts. Especially when you were a nurse and had believed yourself to be among colleagues.
By denying responsibility, Johns Hopkins Medicine is telling Pam that the ordeal she underwent doesn’t matter, and that her life means nothing to them.
In an article called “The Malpractice Lottery,” Rick Kidwell, who was Hopkins’ head litigator at the time, said that “once people see juries making the big awards to patients, the number of claims often increases. It’s like the theory of sharks being attracted to blood in the water.”
This telling of Pam’s story is not about money. If there is blood in the water, it is Pam’s blood, and it is not her doing. She doesn’t feel like she won the lottery. Quite the reverse.
For the most part, Collateral Damage is a story about the failure of an institution rather than of its people. My aim is to accurately portray what happened to my wife at Johns Hopkins Medicine without detracting from the skill, kindness and compassion of the majority of the people who work there. Although she can no longer work, Pam is a nurse by trade, and I know how great is the capacity for caring in the medical profession.
My larger purpose in writing this book is to prove to Pam that she does matter, and to tell her that despite what the leadership of “America’s Best Hospital” says, her life is important—and her story is important—and it deserves to be honestly told.
— Dan Walter