Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A broken heart; an award-winning video

Emily-Ann and her Dad
In August 2008, the week before Emily-Ann Croke of Riverside, RI started freshman year at Providence College, she said goodbye to her father.


He'd spent the last days of his life in a hospital intensive care unit. He'd come in to the hospital for treatment of esophageal cancer. Emily and her mom were stunned when he died six weeks later of sepsis from multiple infections. He was 48.

Soon after, Emily ended up testifying for passage of a new patient safety law in Rhode Island. Otherwise jaded lawmakers squirmed uncomfortably, as an only child recounted her last memories of the most important man in her life: 

"... there were also so many absolutely repulsive things that I witnessed while my father was in the hospital that not only caused the spread of these diseases, but should not have even occurred under any circumstance. For example, while fighting C-diff [infection], which resides in the colon, the hospital staff gave him an enema. When my mom later walked into the room there was human feces all over the floor, which no one bothered to clean up. My mom ended up cleaning the floor, which not only presented a threat to her and to other sick patients, but also to everyday visitors and staff..."

Emily was at the State House, testifying, at my urging. In fact, I'd lost my own father to complications of a C-diff infection two years before she lost her father. (Sadly, there are more of us than you might think.) 

The law passed. Emily went on with her college life. But the more she read about hospital-acquired infection (HAIs), the more alarmed she became...both by the prevalence of the problem (99,000 people a year die from HAIs), and the fact that most people are clueless about the risk. She wanted to do something.

She contacted me again a few months ago. Could I help put her in touch with some people to interview for a film project on hospital-acquired infections?

Last month, the Providence College Film Festival screened a dozen student-produced films. I watched, alongside Emily, her mom and a family friend. The last video presented, "A Silent Epidemic", was shot, written, produced and edited by Emily-Ann Croke.

Emily's film won first place. The judges swarmed her afterward. This is important...people need to see it...you should enter it in other film festivals...

Here it is: a daughter's homage to her father, a heads-up for you, and a fine piece of video on its own. Watch, and then Tweet, re-post and share it...you can help Emily make a difference.


  1. Dear Pat,the CDC estimated 99,000 HAIs deaths per year is several years old. Out of 1.7 million HAIs, a mortality rate of 5.8%. For the EU, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates 146,000 deaths per year out of 4.5 million HAIs, a mortality rate of 3.3%.
    US ranks last out of 19 countries in preventable deaths at hospitals, but numbers sourced from Commonwealth Fund report(link below)ranks the US last in "amenable death", which basically includes any death that could have been prevented by more "timely and effective healthcare".
    Pat thank you for all the work and efforts you are doing!


  2. Peter, thank you for weighing in on this. Many of us tend to cite the CDC number because it's so widely known and used (and as if 99,000 deaths a year isn't already bad enough!) But you're absolutely right; this data is from 2002! As reported in hospitalinfecion.org:

    "The CDC claims that 1.7 million people contract infections in U.S. hospitals each year. In fact, the truth is several times that number. The proof is in the data. One of the fastest growing infections is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a superbug that doesn’t respond to most antibiotics. In 1993, there were fewer than 2,000 MRSA infections in U.S. hospitals. By 2005, the figure had shot up to 368,000 according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). By June, 2007, 2.4 percent of all patients had MRSA infections, according to the largest study of its kind, which was published in the American Journal of Infection Control. That would mean 880,000 victims a year.

    That’s from one superbug. Imagine the number of infections from bacteria of all kinds, including such killers as vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and Clostridium difficile. Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director of the CDC, recently told Congress that MRSA accounts for only 8 percent of HAIs. That 8 percent figure was confirmed in a study by Emory University researchers on April 6.

    These new facts discredit the CDC’s official 1.7 million estimate. CDC spokesperson Nicole Coffin admits “the number isn’t perfect.” In fact, it is an irresponsible guesstimate based on 2002 data. The CDC researchers who came up with it complained that not having actual data 'complicated the problem'.”

    Pat here again. The higher numbers certainly add to the urgency for action. But real improvement won't happen until there's consumer demand...and numbers are hard for the average person to wrap their head around. As Ben Miller (founder of OccupyHealthcare.net) says, two things will move the dial: money, and stories. CMS hoped to use the money "stick" by withholding payment for certain HAIs (an initiative that, by the way, an infection preventionist colleague says is turning out to be more of a twig than a stick). But stories are transformational...like the one your wife Amy Burke shares in the Peggy Lillis Foundation website at http://www.peggyfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=129:amy-burke-dc&catid=41:c-diff-stories&Itemid=107.

    We need more of these stories.