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Alicia Cole (Part Two) Actress Becomes Patient Advocate After Surviving Flesh-Eating Infection

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 3:50 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Hospitals, Antibiotics, Infections, Wrongful Death, Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care, Nosocomial and Postoperative Infections, MRSA Infections

*Disclaimer - this story contains a medical photo that many might find too graphic.

Alicia Cole, Actress who suffered flesh eating bacterial infection in the hospital becomes patient advocate

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Ironically while actress Alicia Cole was in the hospital fighting a flesh eating bacterial infection, Necrotizing fasciitis (NF), her image was plastered on a billboard near the hospital and commercials were running with her with her posing as a medical professional. Nurses would recognize her and ask “Are you a doctor?”

Now, more than a year after her near death experience and with more than $1 million in doctor bills, Cole the actress has turned to education and patient activism.

She wants patients to know that hospital acquired infections affect 6 to 10 percent of patients and can be fatal. In cases such as hers, they usually are. And Cole adds they are largely avoidable through hygienic procedures and policies.

Through her website, she wants Californians to know that the state caps how much you can recover for pain, suffering and emotional distress following a medical error. These are known as non-economic damages and California caps recovery at $250,000.

That number was established by the state Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) in 1975 when a dollar bought what five dollars buys today.

She has hired attorney John Contos of Contos and Bunch who filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital in November. With the amount of recovery limited to $250,000 he admits his firm is one of the few remaining that’s willing to take these cases. But he likes Alicia and her dedication.

“She sees this as a bigger cause,” he tells IB News. “She is very invested in getting the hospital to accept greater responsibility and to avert infections like what she got” he says.

Cole recently testified to a state infection control committee about the need to disclose hospital infection rates to “put a face on the facts and figures.” California hospitals do not have to disclose that information and in October, Governor Schwarzenegger joined the hospital industry and vetoed a bill that would have forced hospitals to disclose their safety records for surgical procedures and infections.

She talks to IB News about her case, her cause and what she’d like you to know to avoid NF.

IB - How do know your infection came from hospital?

Alicia Cole – “The hospital has never assumed responsibility for my infection. Their position is that I had it when I came in. Before I went into that hospital I was completely healthy, an athlete. I was never sick, had no pre-existing conditions, no diabetes, no drinking smoking, asthma, allergies, nothing that would make me susceptible.

In fact I asked my doctor, I said “I’ve never had surgery before, what can I do to help you to help me to bounce back?” He said Alicia the stronger your stomach muscles the faster you’ll come back. So I was the queen of sit-ups, pushups, walking, and the treadmill. I trained for that surgery and all the doctors said that is one of the things that saved my life. There were three times they told my parents we don’t expect her to make it through the night.

IB – You want to amend the caps- what do you think would be fair?

AC - “I’m not even saying abolish it, I’m saying if you’re going to have a cap, make it equitable. You can’t come up with a number in 1975 and expect that to be fair in 2008. If tort reform and fairness is your objective there needs to be a cost of living adjustment on that cap to make it fair and reasonable in 2008.

I also tried to talk to the committee members about the need to educate our doctors and nurses on how to avoid these infections. If we eliminate the infection we eliminate the need to get an attorney and litigate and everybody’s happy. A doctor knows when you come into his office he needs to wash his hands. Studies show only half wash between patients. Some are offended but they already know. If you are doing this on a daily consistent basis it will naturally bring down the hospital associated infection rate. And if you are not, you need to make that public.

If you go to a restaurant there is a rating, an A,B,C,or D on the window. You know how clean it is by the letter on the door. They have to pay fines if they don’t meet the cleanliness standard. Hospitals are only inspected once every three years by joint commissions. I would say hospitals are equally important as restaurants. Why aren’t we having inspections of hospitals with the same frequency?

IB – Before this happened to you, did you know what tort reform was?

AC - "The extent of my medical knowledge was to go to acupuncture if you have any problems. The only thing I ever had was cramps. I had no idea. That’s why I’m so adamant that this has got to change.

It’s just not common knowledge, not something you talk about and when you do hear tort reform you hear frivolous lawsuits and how they are making your health insurance go up. You don’t hear from victims who can’t get an attorney because the caps prevent them from taking your case. You don’t find out about people fighting to get their records because the hospital won’t give you records. Outside of getting an attorney, how are you going to get the records?

These things you find out when it happens to you. It’s not casually discussed. That’s why most people don’t know. I could not believe all the things I’ve found out. When I sent out all the emails to my friends, I would say wow, I was so shocked, my family would be appalled and flabbergasted because whoever thought a woman whose son died after three days in the hospital (from MRSA) could not get an attorney.

I used to teach school for a little while. So I feel like my whole life has prepared me for this. I know God is using me. Many years ago I worked as a paralegal but nothing to do with healthcare. I had a little understanding of the legal process but that was a lifetime ago. I’ve thought, how can I help now that it’s happened to me because I can’t go back and I’m not going to ferment on things that have gone wrong.

The answer is to be my best advocate and to honor my promise in the ICU to prevent this from happening to somebody else.

IB – Is this far more prevalent than anyone knows?

AC - It’s a dirty little secret. I could not believe it, I get calls or email at least once a week from someone. People want to know what should I be doing? Every time I turn around there are people who want advice or want someone to listen to understand what they are going through. It’s very emotional on so many levels. Healing is what I’m doing and I’m sharing.”

Alicia Cole, model and actress speaks out about flesh eating bacteria

Alicia Cole Actress and (top photo) Model promotional shots

(bottom photo)
*Disclaimer- graphic photo of flesh-eating bacterian infection many may find too upsetting

Alicia Coles flesh eating bacterial infection Disclaimer* Graphic image


11 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by Linda
Thursday, December 13, 2007 9:26 AM EST

Hi Alicia:
I thank God for your testimony that goes out so that we may be educated and informed as to what goes on in our hospitals. God has allowed you to survive for his purpose, so just keep doing what you are doing and keep giving him the glory. Prayer works.

"Depend on the Lord in whatever you do and your plans will succeed" - Prov. 16:3


Luv,
Linda

Anonymous User
Posted by Leslie Hedge
Thursday, December 13, 2007 11:00 AM EST

Dear Alicia-
I think you are right- you were put in this position because you are strong enough to handle it, smart enough to educate, and loving enough to help others. I am always sincerely depressed when I read your story, and yet at the same time inspired and grateful for the fact that you are still with us and slowly getting better. I always thought of you as someone who knows what they are talking about- you've always been very informed and full of useful knowledge. Those skills are really being used now- and for such an important cause. Thank you for not giving up and for bringing this topic into the public eye. Stay Strong and keep up the great work. You are doing an excellent job!!! I want to see you running around again soon, making people laugh, and sharing your beautiful smile.
Much love & support,
Leslie

Posted by Doreen Mulman
Sunday, December 16, 2007 3:59 PM EST

As an online friend and fellow Necrotzing Fasciitis survivor, I just wanted to say that the work Alicia is doing (while still healing!) is the most heroic and unselfish act I have ever witnessed. I support all that she does and will do anything I possibly can to help her. Get well soon, Alicia, and keep fighting the good fight! -Dor

Anonymous User
Posted by Ron & Betty Cole
Monday, December 17, 2007 8:27 PM EST

As the parents of Alicia (Lisa) we are thankful, first to God Almighty for sparing our daughter’s life. For family, friends and kind strangers who through their cards, gifts, time and information are helping us continue to fight this battle. We can only say “Thank you, thank you”.

There were times Lisa thought she could go no longer, we know, because we saw the look and felt the pain. But we know the Lord kept her moving and smiling back at us just sitting at her bedside. She was trying to be strong for us, we were trying to be strong for her. The hardest part was feeling there was nothing as parents we could do and that tore at our hearts. We prayed from the time we got up and all the way to the hospital. (Even at the hospital with other families who had loved ones there.) During each of her 5 trips back to surgery it was a painful and difficult time, but we just trusted God to bring her through.

We believe the Lord wants Lisa to tell people to have faith in Him and he will see you through the storm. We know that if she can tell the world about all the hidden dangers and unreported things that go on in hospitals, with her help no one else will die or suffer. Her faith gives Lisa the strength to carry on and be a patient advocate to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. She has always been a compassionate person that way.

This time it was our daughter, but we have learned that this is happening all the time in hospitals all across the country. Next time it may be the loved one of someone reading this very article. Miss Akre, thank you so much for telling our daughter’s story. We hope that it will be a comfort to someone else and to help bring about some positive changes.

Kind regards,

Ron & Betty Cole
Columbus, Ohio

Anonymous User
Posted by Michelle Reed
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 1:46 AM EST

Unimaginable, but God kept you and my Sister keep pressing on because he's not done with you yet. Thank you for sharing your story so that we may be aware and the hospitals can be accountable for their negligence.

Continue to keep the faith,
Michelle Reed

Anonymous User
Posted by Sonya Marchand
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 1:35 PM EST

Dear Alicia,
You have shown me what a true miracle of God looks like. I continue to marvel at your strength, tenacity and faith in God while going through this storm. I agree with everyone who says that God chose you because you really are equipped with the skills needed to fight this fight. It is an honor to know you, to be blessed by your life. Let's continue to pray, fight and inform as we fight this battle together. One life saved is worth it!

Love,
Sonya

Anonymous User
Posted by Sonya Marchand
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 1:54 PM EST

And I want to add that hospitals really must be held accountable for these horrific, avoidable mistakes. For too long these cases have been swept under the rug and it is time to clean house! Besides lowering the infection rate, informing consumers of their cases will empower us to make sound decisions about our healthcare. 90,000 cases a year is way too many lives. Each life has a family attached! Many more than 90,000 people are affected by this situation. Let's work together to get the word out and hold hospitals accountable for their actions!

Anonymous User
Posted by Batina
Thursday, December 27, 2007 12:21 PM EST

Dear Alicia,

Our friend Ron P. fwd: me this article on you. WOW! You are soooo stong -- I feel pride, strenght, and admiration, indeed!

Let us know what we can do to advance this cause with you, Alicia.

Keep your Head to the Sky,
batina

Anonymous User
Posted by Rudy Quintanilla
Monday, December 31, 2007 5:18 PM EST

Alicia, you are Gods trouper & messenger and an inspiration to many. Thanks go out to John Contos for taking your case. I know the word will finally get out to amend the cap!!
Bless you,
Rudy Quintanilla

Posted by Carole Moss
Wednesday, January 02, 2008 2:27 PM EST

Thank you for focusing on this important issue.
Hospital Acquired Infections take the lives of more than 100,000 patients each year.

The fact of the matter is that most of these infections are preventable.

My Son Nile Calvin Moss died from MRSA April 17 2006. He was only 15 years of age. 3 Weeks prior to this tragedy Nile had undergone a series of annual tests in 3 different hospitals. All of his doctors had given him a clean bill of health.

We had no idea of the clear and present danger of hospital acquired infections.
We had no idea that MRSA can live in the padding on an MRI table or on handrails or you can get it by a handshake or a hug.
No one warned us, not one doctor or nurse cared enough to warn us of the fact that 2 million people each year go into hospitals and get infections. Many loose their limbs or are left to deal with a life of suffering through infections that seem to be never ending.

The importance of you telling this story and many others should not be downplayed.

Unless the public is made aware that for decades people have been infected by staph, infections in hospitals that in most cases are preventable then they can begin to understand the importance of becoming up to date on what they can do to protect them selves and protect their family from.

The CDC has been a disappointing leader in this area. They are aware and have been aware of the size of this epidemic for years. 19,000 people died in 2005 from MRSA and 85% were healthcare related. If we had been educated I could have demanded the 2 hour MRSA Test for Nile and they could have begun to treat with antibiotics that would could have saved his life.

Instead they sent us home with an antibiotic for strep, after receiving a negative culture on a rapid test.

The healthcare system needs to be on high alert for MRSA, VRE and Other Hospital Acquired Infections. The need to be educated and they need to be ready to treat with best practices that can save lives of even the most extreme cases that affect the repertory system, MRSA Pneumonia can kill within 72 hours and it looks just like the flu.

CDC needs to advise doctors to not delay testing for MRSA and they should be up to date on the most recent rapid test available that can provide results in 1 or 2 hours so they can begin treatment immediately. If they wait to test or if they use a culture, the 2 or 3 day delay could result in death as it did for my son.

Today we celebrate the Life of Nile Calvin Moss by educating the public in infection prevention and in new legislative action that will force our hospitals and hospital associations to do what 20 other states have implemented for their citizens.
1. Require Hospitals to report to the public how many people come into the hospitals and get infections
2. 3 other states require Screening as patients
are admitted to hospitals and when they leave the hospital
3. Education of MRSA VRE and Other HAI hospital acquired infections to the public. Stressing Infection Prevention ie, having flu shots, one hour rapid test, hand hygiene,

For more information on infections prevention
go to LINK Rid, Committee to reduce infection deaths,
LINK Consumers Union
LINK Nile's Project
LINK to hear Nile's music

Thank you again for your important focus on the topic of Hospital Acquired Infection MRSA, VRE etc.

Carole Moss
Nile's Project
Founder and Executive Director

Anonymous User
Posted by Sharon Wood
Wednesday, January 02, 2008 2:56 PM EST

My thoughts, prayers and support are with you, Alicia, as you continue your fight for justice and sanity in this incredibly important issue. Through your efforts, and the others who join in your fight, I truly believe we are reaching a tipping point in awareness, an awakening in the general public, about the seriousness of Hospital Acquired Infections and their invasion into and effect on all of our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

Thank you, Alicia
Sharon Wood (Auntie Shari)

Comments for this article are closed.

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