Every year, more than 200,000 people die in U.S. hospitals. The "Patient Safety Movement" is working to cut down on the number of preventable deaths in the country.
Jennifer Nibarger was a wife, a daughter, and an aunt to 14 nieces and nephews.
“She was 47 when this all occurred; prime of her life, prime of her career, prime of her health and cut short, to say the least,” Brent Nibarger, her husband, said.
Jennifer was a pediatric nurse who had a huge love for children and, Nibarger adds, she did a lot of work for the diabetic community.
The couple went out for what was supposed to be yet another beautiful day on Lake Meade. Their day turned catastrophic when a steering malfunction led to an accident.
“It resulted in a collision of a very large boat into a rock wall, and that’s what created the accident and all the associated injuries of the people that were onboard, myself included," Nibarger explained
Nibarger says Jennifer was airlifted to a trauma center. The list of injuries was extensive.
After seven weeks in three different hospitals, the couple was finally able to have a conversation. The family was told she needed a routine test and then she'd be able to go home.
“We’ll never forget the day we had a conversation, and I said, 'I can’t believe we’ve climbed this mountain and we’re at the top and ready to go home,'" Nibarger said.
Jennifer would later go into cardiac arrest, after suffering an unsurvivable set of complications.
“So, it got to a point where all the organs and heart shut down, she was in cardiac arrest for 14 minutes,” Nibarger said.
He says critical information was overlooked and Jennifer was misdiagnosed.
"The patient safety movement talks about how often hand-off and communication errors result in patient tragedy. This was a classic example of that,” Nibarger said.
This is what the Patient Safety Movement says is a global crisis.
“Where they go in for one thing, and yet, because of medication mistake, infection, they end up with a whole different set of issues they have to deal with, and some result in preventable deaths,” said Dr. Dave Mayer, CEO of Patient Safety Movement Foundation which is now in 54 countries and in 4,800 hospitals around the world.
The group provides free patient safety solutions, advocating for "zero preventable harm." The group says preventable deaths are the third leading cause of death in the country.
“These aren’t bad people. These are great people who go to work to heal everyday, but our systems and processes and things that we’ve put in place to improve, haven’t supported them as well as we should have. And thus, we see these errors reaching patients and causing preventable harm or death," Mayer said.
Mayer says they're trying to improve communication, trying to raise public awareness, trying to repair our complex patient systems, and they're advocating for patients to be aware of how important it is to have someone be your voice.
"Consumers of health care have to be more aware of the inherent risk and dangers, and it is imperative, especially for the more complicated things, that you have a patient advocate,” Nibarger said.
He tells us, he's working to make sure Jennifer isn't just a number.
“I’m really trying to do what I can to be an advocate, to be part of the change and to use the story and all of its pain and emotion in a way that maybe will help.”