Four years after their daughter died, Jeff Goldenberg and Naomi Kirtner told her story to The Seattle Times. Talia Goldenberg emerged from spinal surgery seemingly in good shape, and the surgical team at Swedish Cherry Hill, located in Seattle, offered assurances that the procedure has gone off without a hitch.
Before long, Talia reported she was having difficulty breathing. According to her parents, Talia’s concerns weren’t heard by the doctors and other staff attending to her. The breathing problems worsened, eventually contributing to cardiac arrest.
After several days in a comatose state, tests indicated significant and irreparable damage to Talia’s brain. She was taken off life support and died in the hospital, less than two weeks after her surgery.
After Talia’s story appeared in The Seattle Times, her parents were contacted by a legion of concerned and sympathetic individuals. Among them was John Friedenberg, the COO of Marin General Hospital, located in the San Francisco area. Friedenberg invited Goldenberg and Kirtner to come speak to the staff at Marin General, detailing their harrowing experience as part of an ongoing educational effort at the facility meant to improve patient care.
According to Goldenberg and Kirtner, the process of preparing for the engagement led them to realize that they could lead an ongoing effort to spur greater attention to patient voices in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. That led to their new advocacy organization, Talia’s Voice: Projects for Patient Safety.
“The entire culture needs to shift, because the way it’s structured has an impact on everybody,” Kirtner tells The Seattle Times.
According to the Talia’s Voice website, the organization is primarily devoted to improving communication between patients and healthcare providers, including the installation of “Listening as a value.” In educational sessions, they share strategies for effective communication and advocate for simple steps such as informing patients as to when rounds will be conducted, so they can be prepared to provide useful information to the doctors.
Friedenberg says the educational session was notably impactful at Marin General Hospital, reporting to The Seattle Times that one surgeon identified it as “the single most important presentation he’s been to in his career.”
Kirtner is hoping the impact of telling her daughter’s story will lead to improved outcomes.
“If I can have an impact on one person, that’s a potential life saved — or complication or harm to a patient that doesn’t occur,” Kirtner tells The Seattle Times. “That makes it worth it.”