Kerry O’Connell

I am a civil construction project manager and Colorado native who prior to 2004 had built a few healthcare facilities but had never been admitted as a patient.

Healthcare Experience

In October 2004 I dislocated my elbow (the Terrible Triad of the Elbow) from a fall which led to eight surgeries over two years at a cost of over $250,000. My journey included a major surgical error (destruction of my radial nerve), a major surgical site infection (MRSE), and a major billing error which kind of redefined terrible triad for me. I survived the tribulations of both legal mediation and an unsuccessful lawsuit. Some have said that I experienced all of healthcare’s major problems in a very brief period of time. It appeared to me that healthcare was in dire need of help so I became heavily involved in numerous organizations such as the Colorado Coalition for Patient Safety, Consumers Union, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), Colorado Citizens for Accountability, and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. My focus has been twofold: infection prevention, and restoring the art of compassion post medical harm. Initially I became involved because I was angry and disgusted but I continue to be involved because of the amazing, caring people I continue to meet in healthcare.

Success Story(s)

In the fall of 2005 I studied a dozen orthopedic textbooks and designed my own combination of three tendon transfers that restored 90% function to my arm.

Later in the spring of 2006 Senator Mo Keller and I distributed a booklet that I wrote called “Waking up Infected” to the members of the Colorado Senate. We succeeded in passing HB-1045, Colorado’s infection reporting law. Six months later I was appointed as a member of the implementation committee which I chaired in 2008. I think that I have greatly influenced the 20 doctors and nurses who have served on this committee.

I have presented a program called Infectious Empathy five times to a total of about 1,000 nurses and doctors across the western United States. Hopefully I have touched a few souls.

The most important work, though, has been distributing papers that I have written to families who have suffered extreme loss and helping them make sense out of it.

The Bright Side

My wife and I have been married for 32 years. We have four amazing grown sons and an extremely beautiful teenage daughter. I enjoy flying down Colorado mountains on either skis or bicycles, hiking, and reading.


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