A toddler’s needless death in a hospital transforms her mother into an activist against medical errors.
King’s slender, often wrenching memoir recounts not one but two parental nightmares—a child’s unnecessary injury and her premature death. Josie was just 18 months old when she scalded herself in the bathtub of her family’s Baltimore home, the victim of a faulty temperature panel. Frightening as her injuries were, she was recovering from them nicely at Johns Hopkins, one of the country’s finest hospitals. Then the staff wrongly administered a drug that killed her. Her grieving parents learned that 98,000 Americans die from such medical mistakes each year. With the settlement money from Hopkins, her mother co-founded the Josie King Foundation to reduce that mortality rate by encouraging hospitals to adopt patient-safety programs. In unadorned prose, the narrative delineates the author’s evolution from despair-stricken parent to enraged avenger determined to destroy Hopkins to public activist seeking to extract some good from her child’s death. King excels in capturing small moments freighted with poignancy: her older children refusing to kiss their unconscious sister goodbye before her life support was turned off, her memories of Josie spilling juice (“I would lean over and wipe it up, never realizing how lucky I was”). The author includes a resource guide for patients, their families and health-care professionals.
Eschewing literary stylishness, King tells her story with a straightforward style that makes it all the more powerful.