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Health & Parenting

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Dennis Quaid, Health Activist

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

Dennis Quaid in The Express continued...

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.

The night the twins were given the incorrect dose, Kimberly recalls she had a “premonition” something was wrong after she and Dennis returned from visiting the hospitalized babies at Cedars-Sinai. Hospital staffers had assured them the twins were recovering well from the staph infections and told the new parents to go home. But, Kimberly says, she suddenly felt so anxious that Dennis called the hospital. They were told everything was fine, the Quaids say, but when they arrived at the hospital the next morning, they learned of the overdoses. Kimberly’s gut feeling turned out to be true.

It was 41 hours of hell, Quaid recalls, from the first overdose until the twins were stabilized. Ever since, the Quaids have been on a fact-finding mission to discover why medical mistakes happen so frequently and what can be done. Until his twins were subjected to the overdoses, the problem wasn’t on his mind, Quaid says. “I’d always gone in and trusted the doctors, [thought] that I was in a safe place and that everyone knew what they were doing. Since then, I have found out that medical errors are all too common.”

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