Evelyn McKnight

Sharing stories, transforming healthcare

“If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
– Mother Theresa

Evelyn McKnight, president of HONOReform
Evelyn McKnight, president of HONOReform

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of “Survivor’s Stories” blog. We thank you for your loyal readership, and we ask you to share with all your associates.

Today we want to thank the many people who have so graciously shared their personal stories with us. Thank you Barbara, Johnny, Mary, Amanda, Ron, Tom, Kim, Tom, Chuck, Melisa, Patty, Tam, Jan, Sharon, Joe, Karen, Rich and Anita for sharing your own story of how your life has been affected by unsafe injections. We know how difficult it can be to share such deeply personal stories with others, especially total strangers. We also know how vitally important it is.

The number of Americans that have been affected by unsafe injections in the past decade is staggering, reaching into the hundreds of thousands. Yet these numbers, although alarming, do not bring about change as readily as the story of the one. These numbers are dry statistics, “human beings with the tears dried off,” and fail to spark emotion or feeling and thus fail to motivate action. Social psychologists argue that this reflects the way our consciences and ethical systems are based on individual stories and are distinct from the parts of our brains concerned with logic and rationality. See “Psychic Numbing and Genocide” for more fascinating information on the numbing effect of impersonal data.

It is the personal stories that change hearts. And when hearts are changed, behaviors are changed. Healthcare becomes safer for all Americans.

I will never forget my first visit to Capitol Hill to visit my congressional delegation’s offices. Congressmen are busy people, and the staff that supports them is equally busy. When I first sat down with staffers, I could read distraction and disinterest in their faces. But as I told my story, they became transformed. They peered at me closely. They asked questions. They took notes. And by the end of the interview, they asked me what their boss could do to help and even made offers of what he would do that day.

Personal stories are powerful. When there is a face on an issue, it becomes real. It moves people to action.

I was very nervous the first time I told my story publicly, which was to a nursing class at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. After the class, the professor said to me, “Today you have spoken to a hundred new nurses. After hearing you speak, they will never compromise patient safety. Through your story, you have made healthcare safer for all the patients that they will serve, which will be thousands upon thousands over the course of their careers.” The butterflies in my stomach flew away immediately, and after looking at it in this way, I have never been reluctant to share my story ever since.

Do you have a story to tell?
How would hearing your story motivate providers, policymakers and manufacturers to commit to safe injections?

Again, we thank all the many people who have shared with others how their lives have been affected by unsafe injections. And we ask those of you who have a story, but have not shared it, to let us help you tell your story. Contact me anytime at evelyn@honoreform.org. Thank you.

Next week we will discuss how sharing stories help the people who have been affected by unsafe injections.

Its time to bury the stigma attached to Hepatitis C

In this post, Evelyn shares her experience with stigma.

Its time to eliminate the stigma attached to Hepatitis C
Its time to eliminate the stigma attached to Hepatitis C

“We’re not going to tell anyone about this,” I whispered to my husband as my doctor exited the exam room after sharing very sobering news. For a year we kept quiet.

When I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, I allowed stigma into my life. When a nurse at our oncologist’s office reused syringes during chemotherapy, I was one of 99 Nebraskans who were infected with hepatitis C. This diagnosis brought about intense feelings of shame, even though I had done nothing wrong. For a year, I was stunned, immobile.
Read more

Examining the Patient Notification Process

The letter that Evelyn received informing her that she was exposed to Hepatitis C
The letter that Evelyn received informing her that she was exposed to Hepatitis C

Three more patient notifications have been announced this week, for a total of five this year. During a patient notification campaign a health facility (the state health department or healthcare provider) sends a letter to patients who were potentially exposed to disease through unsafe practice while receiving healthcare. Since HONOReform started in 2007, there have been countless patient notification events, all prompted by evidence of unsafe injection practices. Nearly 200,000 Americans in the past thwelve years have been told they may have been placed in harm’s way because one healthcare worker (or more) wasn’t doing injections the right way.

After a thorough investigation by health officials, 50 of these patient notifications have become confirmed outbreaks of bloodborne pathogens, usually hepatitis C.
Read more

A special thanks to our colleague, Sharon Bradley

Sharon Bradley, RN CIC, of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.
Sharon Bradley, RN CIC, of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.

We are just two of many citizens and patient advocates who remain concerned about the safety of our nation’s many outpatient clinics—and ambulatory surgery facilities, in particular. Perhaps, it is because trips to these type of healthcare settings resulted in the Hepatitis C virus for both of us.

Since the founding of HONOReform in 2007, there has been a migration of care from the hospital to the outpatient setting. Very few of us do not know someone who described their surgery or procedure, which appeared quite complicated, yet they were released the same day.
Read more

National Patient Safety Week

PfP Boxed logo-1

I am honored to be a patient advocate with the Patient and Family Engagement Network of the Partnership for Patients. The Partnership for Patients initiative is a public-private partnership working to improve the quality, safety and affordability of health care for all Americans, and I am very proud of its efforts to achieve its goal of 40% reduction in hospital acquired conditions and a 20% reduction in hospital readmissions compared to 2010.

As patient advocates, our role with the Partnership is to encourage and support collaboration between healthcare providers and patients and families to improve healthcare and reduce cost. Along with other advocates, I posted to the National Patient Safety Foundation’s website blog to highlight Patient Safety Awareness Week 2014. In the words of fellow advocate Helen Haskell, ” Patient Safety Awareness Week has been an important symbol of hospital involvement in patient safety. It is not just about safety, but about awareness of all that patients can teach health care providers about themselves.”

Following is my blog celebrating the patient/provider partnership. Read more

Una Jeringa, Una Sola Vez

Tom and Evelyn McKnight gave a presentation on injection safety to Guatemalan healthcare workers
Tom and Evelyn McKnight gave a presentation on injection safety to Guatemalan healthcare workers

Tom and I were privileged to participate in a mission trip to Guatemala, led by Guatemala Esperanza’s Ron Noecker, a former HONOReform board member.

Our team co-operated with several other organizations to provide health screenings, build a health clinic and provide healthcare provider education.

Guatemala is a lovely country, very lush with beautiful cities, lakes, volcanoes and villages. It also has many challenges. Read more

Seeing for ourselves how safety is engineered into medical injections

BD hosted HONOReform and reporter Matthew Hanson for a plant tour
BD hosted HONOReform and reporter Matthew Hansen for a plant tour

What a great way to end the week!

Steve Langan and Matthew Hansen, features writer for the Omaha World-Herald, picked me up at my house on Friday morning, and we drove to a meeting at the BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.) plant in Columbus. It’s one of two BD plants in Columbus. There are two others in the state, one in Broken Bow and another in Holdrege.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, a longtime supporter of injection safety whose district now also includes the Columbus area, was at the meeting. He met with our BD colleagues and the HONOReform team, and then he led a town hall meeting for BD employees.

I value Congressman Fortenberry’s straightforward, genuine approach to governing. Read more

One IV Bag, One IV Tubing and Only One Time

Evelyn McKnight is a survivor of the Nebraska outbreak, in which 99 cancer patients contracted Hepatitis C through reuse of an IV bag on multiple patients.

One IV Bag, One IV Tubing, and Only One Time
One IV Bag, One IV Tubing, and Only One Time

Recently, I had what started out as a minor health situation. But as time went on, I experienced a cascade of health complications which resulted in a not-so-minor situation. I neared dehydration, and I would need IV fluids if my condition continued to  deteriorate. The thought of an IV infusion panicked me, and I asked for 24 hours before we began IV fluids.

As I chugged Gatorade, I tried not to think about the last time I had an IV infusion, which was during chemotherapy in 2000. The nurse reused syringes to access a mutidose saline bag. When a nurse used a syringe on a patient with known Hepatitis C and then reused the same syringe to access the IV bag,  the IV bag was contaminated. This happened multiple times during the day; in fact, it was found during an investigation by Nebraska Health and Human Services that after a day’s use, the bag was cloudy, pink, with bits of sediment. In this way, 99 Nebraskans contracted Hepatitis C. Read more

The many “Love Stories” that have been altered by unsafe injection practices

Evelyn & Tom McKnight are survivors of the Nebraska Outbreak
Evelyn & Tom McKnight are survivors of the Nebraska Outbreak

On behalf of my wife Evelyn and everyone who helps sustain the efforts of HONOReform, thank you very much for your support. In the letter I sent in November, I ask the wonderful people we have met and worked alongside through the years to provide a donation to HONOReform. This request is getting a good response. I thank you all.

And, naturally, I encourage everyone to please think of HONOReform here at the end of the year…and throughout 2014 and beyond. We depend on your kindness and generosity. Every donation is meaningful. You are helping us continue to help safeguard the medical injection process in the United States. If you haven’t already, will you please consider a gift to HONOReform?

In a blog post scheduled for early next year, our executive director, Steve Langan, will share some of our highlights of 2013—and some of our goals for 2014. We encourage you to join us!

In my appeal letter we mailed in November, I shared part of my story, our story—what can happen when a loved one is affected by unsafe injection practices. Even one unsafe injection can devastate a person and his or her family. Every part of the injection safety process “from manufacting through disposal” (as Evelyn says) must be done correctly.

I talk about the many “love stories” that have been altered by unsafe injection practices. I have been there. Many others have been there, too. Let’s continue to work to prevent outbreaks and infections caused by unsafe injection practices.

I would like to switch gears for a minute, and talk to you about injection safety from the point of view of health care providers. As many of you know, I have been a family physician for many years. It is not a stretch to say, at this point in my career, “I’ve seen it all.”

I call on my colleagues—not just physicians but nurses and every member of the staff in a clinic or hospital—to always provide a safe injection, each and every time. This continues to be my goal. A call to action to everyone who gives an injection…to make sure it’s being done correctly.

That said, it is now more important than ever that we communicate. There is so much technology in play in hospitals and clinics—from electronic medical records to apps of all kinds—that I think we providers sometimes forget to take some time to talk with one another.

My wish for 2014 is that we emphasize communication here in Fremont at our clinic. And that we are never shy or hesitant about addressing a situation in which any aspect of health care is questionable. As they say in the airports, If you see something, say something. This especially applies to any potential violation of the injection safety. Lives depend on it.

I extend this important call to action to my fellow providers, here in Nebraska and throughout the country.

 

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