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Dennis Quaid, Health Activist

Actor Dennis Quaid takes on medical errors – and life with twins.

Dennis Quaid in The Express

These days, Dennis Quaid’s reading material includes the usual pile of movie scripts, but also medical journals. “I don’t think either of us imagined a year ago we’d be … involved in [this],” he tells WebMD.

The background reading was crucial not just for launching the new foundation but also for preparing to testify before Congress recently. At a House of Representatives hearing in May, he voiced his strong opposition to preemption for pharmaceutical companies, which opponents say could undermine a patient’s right to sue drug firms if harmed by a medication.

The health theme comes up, again, in his upcoming movie, The Express, based on the moving, true story of Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, played by Rob Brown.  While still a senior in college, Davis was drafted in 1961 by the NFL, only to be diagnosed with leukemia at age 22. The talented, young running back was never able to suit up and play the game professionally.

Quaid plays Davis’s hard-driving coach, toughest critic, and surrogate father, who never stops pushing the All-American athlete to go for greatness despite the color barriers of that time. But the movie is about far more than football.

“It’s about grace: living your life gracefully and dying gracefully. But it’s also about race and race relations in this country,” Quaid explains. Even though the movie is set in 1959, he adds, the messages it sends remain powerful today. Davis became an important figure in the burgeoning civil rights movement.

The Quaid Foundation

Also in May, Quaid joined other A-list celebrities in Beverly Hills to help launch Stand Up 2 Cancer, an entertainment industry-backed initiative that aims to speed up and fund research into the disease. A star-packed televised event will air on network channels ABC, NBC, and CBS on Sept. 5. While he hasn’t had any family members with cancer, Quaid, whose brother is actor Randy Quaid, says he’s had a half-dozen friends face the disease, beginning with a seventh-grade pal.

But most of his health activism is focused squarely on The Quaid Foundation, with its mission of minimizing medical mistakes such as the terrifying error involving the twins. They were lucky to survive. Dennis and Kimberly are all too aware that a similar heparin overdose killed three children in an Indianapolis hospital a year before.

The Quaid Twins’ Overdose

When they were just 11 days old, T. Boone and Zoe developed staph infections and had to be hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, as the world now knows. Because of human error and five missed opportunities to verify the dosage, Quaid says, the twins were given 1,000 times the recommended dose of heparin, a blood thinner routinely given to prevent clots from forming in intravenous medication lines.

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