Inspired by the Light…and two real-life medical errors
According to a 2012 study completed at Johns Hopkins, over 250,000 people die each year from medical error. Since then, that figure has been hotly debated for many reasons. Most prominent is the question: How is medical error defined? Is it an adverse, avoidable event that leads to death? A procedure that should have been done, but wasn’t? If an adverse event occurs but the patient doesn’t die, should that count as medical error?
The good news is that for the last twenty years procedures have been put in place to track medical error (all types of them) and hold people accountable. Risk management teams spend their days ensuring patient safety is a priority within a health system. Peer review organizations, both within health systems and outside as well, meet regularly to assure clinicians maintain and improve procedures and care. Most physicians agree that you are safer now than ever before when you enter a health system.
Fictional Dr. Angela Brennan’s Medical Error Nightmare
Dr. Angela Brennan isn’t so fortunate in my contest-winning novel, Devil’s Grace. She loses her husband and son in a car accident, only to watch her daughter die after surgery in the very hospital where she is chief of Cardiac Surgery. When she begins asking questions about the medical error she believes led to her daughter’s death, Angela finds herself pitted against the very colleagues she used to call friends.
I often refer to Devil’s Grace as being “borne of Light.” I was busy writing another book when a friend, who regularly communicates with those who have passed, texted me and told me I was supposed to be writing about “the Light.” Neither of us understood exactly what that meant, but then I remembered two real-life stories my healthcare executive husband told me. I mentioned them to my friend and suggested that perhaps I could create a novel by combining the two stories. She laughed and said, “That’s it. That’s the Light.” I started writing Devil’s Grace that day.
Devil’s Grace – Not About Death
You see, Devil’s Grace is not about death and dying. Or even about medical error. Sure, it starts that way…that’s the basis, the roots of the tree, so to speak. But the real value for the reader is what grows from the roots. It’s about the relationship between those who have passed and those left behind to complete their own missions. It’s about choices each of us make in our daily lives related to morality, spirituality and personality. Angela is a scientist who uncovers irrefutable proof that she has been communicating with ghosts.
Losing Her Mind?
She believes that she’s losing her mind. But the advice offered by these spirits aids in her quest to discover why her daughter died, so she begins to accept her “new normal.” With her newly discovered ability to communicate with the beyond, the emotional walls she has so carefully constructed begin to crumble and leave her swaying with her emotional tides. Yet over time, as she begins to acclimate, she transforms into a more compassionate, patient, kind person. And, in turn, a better physician.
Devil’s Grace is, at its heart, a medical thriller/mystery wrapped in a spiritual drama. Angela could implode after losing her entire family, but instead she’s surprised to find a fortitude and patience she didn’t know she possessed. These traits allow her to forgive instead of scorn, to love instead of hate. In the end, Devil’s Grace is about the Light: kindness, forgiveness and hope, each of which are sorely lacking in today’s climate. I hope that readers can immerse themselves in the story and find their own emotional release and growth, even as Angela struggles through the transformation herself.
The universal themes outlined in Devil’s Grace make it great reading for book clubs around the world. I’m hoping the book generates discussions about medical error, the role of kindness in society, and issues surrounding balancing work and family.
About Author Splaine
Splaine grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and received her MHA from UNC Chapel Hill. She worked in healthcare administration for eleven years before turning her creative mind to writing. She entered Devil’s Grace in the When Words Count writing competition in which not only is the author’s writing judged, but her marketing plan, cover copy and the book’s cover as well. Splaine’s operatic performance background came in handy when she completed the required public reading, as she memorized the novel’s prologue and kept the audience rapt throughout the reading. When not writing, Splaine teaches voice at Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband, sons and dogs. Devil’s Grace, her third novel, is published through Green Writers Press. You can reach her through her website: www.elizabethsplaineauthor.com.