Chicago Tribune, October 7, 2011
Michelle Malizzo Ballog was nervous as hospital staff wheeled her into surgery to replace a temporary stent in her liver. In a procedure two weeks earlier, also at University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago, she had awakened too early from the anesthesia, an unsettling experience. But this time she didn't wake up. Monitoring errors were made while she was under anesthesia, and Ballog, whose youngest daughter had turned 1 the day before, stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest on the operating room table. She lapsed into a coma and died nine days later at 39. Her parents and sister had no idea at first that Ballog's death was caused by preventable medical errors, of which the monitoring problem was only the first. When they found out, they were livid. Bob Malizzo, Ballog's father, remembers angrily asking doctors: "How could this happen?" To the family's astonishment, hospital officials did not duck their questions, cover up their mistakes or hide behind lawyers. Instead, they shared the tragic details. As a result, the family made a surprising decision of their own: They chose not to sue and joined the hospital's safety review committee to help the medical center avoid making such errors in the future.