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Chris Jerry, whose daughter Emily died from a pharmacy technician’s mistake, starts foundation to push for national law

Chris Jerry still hears the screams of his 2-year-old daughter, Emily, after a medical mistake put her into agonizing pain and led to her death three years ago.

His grief was overwhelming, but it drove him to give meaning to Emily’s death, suffered at the hands of a pharmacy technician who mistakenly gave the toddler a fatal dose of saline solution.

To make sure no other child would suffer the same fate, he and others fought through the labyrinth of the Statehouse to gain passage of a law to govern pharmacy technicians. To hold the people who killed his daughter responsible, they fought for justice in both the criminal and civil courts.

Jerry won on all counts. The law was changed. The pharmacist who failed to supervise the technician was convicted. Jerry and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Kelly, won a $7 million settlement from Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

But the money did not take away his pain or make up for what he lost. Jerry’s life went into a downward spiral. His marriage fell apart, and he lost custody of his two children. He got into trouble with drugs and the law as he searched for a way to make something positive out of the tragedy.

Then it came to him — Emily’s Foundation.

Jerry, 41, of Willoughby Hills, decided to use a chunk of the settlement money to start a charity. He hopes the foundation will be active by the end of the summer to push for a national law to govern the work of pharmacy technicians and help prevent medical errors like the one that killed his daughter.

The foundation will also operate a Web site where grieving parents can come together to console one another and offer advice. A spokesman for T.S. Wrobel & Associates of San Francisco confirmed that Jerry hired the firm to form the foundation and to apply for nonprofit status.

Jerry will run the foundation and serve as an advocate for children’s health issues.

“I’ve learned from losing my daughter that there are large bureaucracies in the medical community,” he said. “Children are getting sick and dying because of mistakes and because drug companies are forcing hospitals to cut corners. We will present these kinds of issues and force change by bringing them to the forefront.”

On Feb. 26, 2006, the Jerrys went to Rainbow for what was to be Emily’s final round of chemotherapy to treat her cancer. A grapefruit-sized tumor had been found in her abdomen, but the regimen had been effective and the tumor was gone. Still, doctors were unsure if she needed one final treatment to eliminate any possibility that the tumor might return.

The Jerrys talked it over and decided to have the last treatment on their daughter’s second birthday. The following week they would all go to Disney World and celebrate her birthday and her victory over cancer.

But there would be no celebration.

Katie Dudash, a pharmacy technician, prepared the saline packet to be used in the chemo mixture. She made a new bag from saline concentrate. Dudash told investigators she didn’t know why she just didn’t grab a prepared bag of saline instead of mixing a new one. She said she was distracted because she was planning her wedding.

The saline solution she made was 23 percent salt. It should have been less than 1 percent salt. Emily screamed in pain when the solution was put into her body, then went into a coma.

Emily died March 1, 2006.

The supervising pharmacist, Eric Cropp, lost his license and pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter this May for improperly supervising Dudash. He is to be sentenced on July 17 and faces up to five years in prison. Dudash, who was not charged, agreed to testify if the case went to trial.

Kelly Jerry attended all of Cropp’s court proceedings in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Chris Jerry did not. He said he feels no anger toward Cropp.

“I feel very sorry for the pharmacist,” he said. “This guy is facing a prison sentence, and I know it was an accident.”

After Emily’s death, Chris and Kelly Jerry’s marriage crumbled. In early 2008, she filed for divorce. It is expected to become final this month.

Jerry admitted he had trouble coping with the loss of his daughter. Painesville police arrested him late last year for possession of marijuana and resisting arrest. His case was diverted to a mental health court for adjudication.

His wife took out a court protection order against him, which he violated once.

He sought psychological counseling as he searched for a way to work through his turmoil. But he never forgot his daughter’s screams and her pain. So he decided that to help himself he had to begin to help others.

Jerry began counseling families in local hospitals whose children were on life-support systems. He did not offer legal advice but simply was there as one who understands what they were going through.

“I can speak to these people because I have gone through something similar, I know what they need to hear,” he said. “I can relate to them in every way.”

And his work with Emily’s Foundation will give him a purpose.

“God gave me my big mouth and goofy personality for a reason,” he said. “I’m planning on running this full time. I feel like my daughter is watching over me, like my personal guardian angel, guiding me in my efforts.”

Christopher Jerry can be reached at chirs@emilyjerryfoundation.org

Article written by Michael Sangiacomo, for cleveland.com. It was originally posted on 6/13/2009.

Original article can be found here.

Chris Jerry Interviewed on the Mike Trivisonno Show WTAM 1100


Triv was gracious enough to help promote The Emily Jerry Foundation and we can’t thank him enough for the support. Click play below to listen to the interview in mp3 format.

Pharmacist Sentenced For Toddler’s Death

 

A former Cleveland area pharmacist got jail time in connection with the death of a toddler.

41-year-old Eric Cropp has been sentenced to six months in jail, six months of house arrest and three years probation in the death of 2-year-old Emily Jerry.

At Friday’s sentencing in Cleveland, Cropp was also ordered to tell professional groups about his case as part of 400 hours of community service when he leaves jail.

Cropp pleaded no contest in May to involuntary manslaughter in the 2006 death.

Prosecutors said Cropp was responsible because he oversaw the mixing of the girl’s chemotherapy at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

The toddler received an overdose of a saline solution during chemotherapy and died three days later.

During the sentencing, Emily’s mother spoke to the judge and to Cropp.

“Emily beat her cancer only to suffer a horrific and painful death. Mr. cropp you have no idea how you’ve devastated so many lives. You never will. Even if you were to recieve the maximum of 5 years, it will never compare to the lifetime of pain and suffering I and my family will have to endure,” said Kelly Jerry.

The hospital fired Cropp and his license was revoked.

Article written by ONN news, and can be found on 10tv.com. It was originally posted on 8/14/2009.

Man Seeks Nationwide Law After Toddler’s Death

Chris Jerry still hears the screams of his 2-year-old daughter, Emily, after a pharmacy technician gave her an improperly mixed dose of chemotherapy.

Emily Jerry of Mentor died in March 2006, three days after receiving the lethal dose during what was supposed to be her final chemotherapy treatment. A grapefruit-sized tumor found in her abdomen was gone, and her parents were planning a trip to Disney World to celebrate her defeat of the cancer.

The solution, mixed by a pharmacy technician, contained concentrated sodium chloride, a 23.4 percent solution, instead of a saline solution with 1 percent sodium chloride.

Pharmacist Eric Cropp, 39, of Bay Village, failed to catch the mistake in the saline solution and was fired by Cleveland’s Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital a week later. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy revoked his license in April 2007.

Cropp was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide and awaits sentencing.

After her death, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed a law – Emily’s Law – that governs the monitoring of pharmacy technicians. But now the 41-year-old old grieving father wants to take his cause across the nation through Emily’s Foundation, a nonprofit group founded in the toddler’s memory.

Jerry plans to push for a national law to govern the work of pharmacy technicians and help prevent medical errors like the one that killed his daughter. The foundation will be partly funded by a $7 million settlement he won from Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, where his daughter died.

The foundation will also operate a Web site where grieving parents can console each other and offer advice.

“Children are getting sick and dying because of mistakes and because drug companies are forcing hospitals to cut corners,” Jerry said. “We will present these kinds of issues and force change by bringing them to the forefront.”

Jerry, who sought psychological counseling as he worked through his turmoil, began counseling families in local hospitals whose children were on life-support.

“I can speak to these people because I have gone through something similar, I know what they need to hear,” he said.

He believes his work with Emily’s Foundation will give him a purpose.

“I feel like my daughter is watching over me, like my personal guardian angel, guiding me in my efforts,” he said.

Article written by The Associated Press, and can be found on 10tv.com. It was originally posted on 6/15/2009.

Rx for errors: Drug error killed their little girl


Emily Jerry was nearly ready to go home from a Cleveland hospital. The grapefruit-size tumor in her abdomen seemed gone, and the 2-year-old with blond ringlets and blue eyes was getting one last round of chemotherapy just to make sure.

Instead, the treatment killed her. A pharmacy technician at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital mixed Emily’s chemotherapy drug with a saline solution 26 times above normal. The pharmacist on duty didn’t catch the error. Soon after getting the drug, Emily was on life support. She died three days later, on March 1, 2006.

On Tuesday, a House bill that would set mandatory education, training and regulatory standards for all pharmacy technicians, is scheduled to be introduced by Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio. He calls it Emily’s Act.

A similar proposal in Emily’s home state, Ohio, is expected to be considered this year by state lawmakers. And next month, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists plans a drive for tougher standards for technicians, who in many states need prove only that they are high school graduates with no criminal record.

Emily’s parents, Kelly and Christopher Jerry, are at the forefront of the crusade for tougher standards for the workers typically responsible for entering prescriptions into computers, checking dosages and getting the correct drugs into medication containers. They say the circumstances of Emily’s death lend urgency to their cause.

“It would have been a whole other story if the cancer would have been responsible,” says Kelly Jerry, an activist and former school teacher in Concord Township, Ohio. “But to know that she died in this horrific way she did, we can’t live with ourselves until we help make changes so this doesn’t happen to another family.”

Emily’s parents say a USA TODAY series published earlier this month drew new attention to the cause by highlighting technician errors not caught by pharmacists.

Born in February 2004, Emily was diagnosed with a curable form of cancer when she was 18 months old. She underwent surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy to eradicate the tumor growing from the base of her spine. The treatment worked, and Emily was expected to go home disease-free just after her second birthday.

Her parents planned a Disney World celebration trip with Emily and her older brother and sister.

Instead, Emily awoke crying on Feb. 28, grabbing her head in pain and vomiting. She died three days later.

An Ohio pharmacy board investigation showed that pharmacy technician Katherine Dudash had made a tragic error. According to a notarized statement Dudash wrote for the board, she prepared Emily’s chemotherapy bag with a 23.4% saline solution, 26 times the 0.9% normally used. Pharmacist Eric Cropp didn’t catch the mistake.

The board revoked his license last year over the incident and a string of later errors. In August, an Ohio grand jury indicted Cropp on charges of reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter “in the death of Emily Jerry.”

Arguing that Cropp is innocent, defense attorney Richard Lillie has filed motions to dismiss the case, which is expected to go to trial later this year. Lillie says the charges raise “all sorts of land mines for health care professionals” who make unintentional errors.

Dudash, in her statement, wrote that she told Cropp, “This doesn’t seem right,” after preparing the intravenous solution for Emily’s chemotherapy. Cropp “shrugged it off,” she wrote. Joann Predina, a pharmacy board investigator, found Dudash had spent time on the Internet “planning her wedding” during a lull before the error.

Cropp, in his own notarized statement to the board, wrote that he had been rushed, “which caused me to miss any flags that Katie had done something wrong.”

Unlike Cropp, Dudash has not faced disciplinary action or prosecution. In part, that’s because Ohio is among at least 11 states that do not regulate pharmacy technicians. In Ohio, “The technician has no legal responsibility. It all falls back on the shoulders of the pharmacist,” says Tim Benedict, assistant director of the state’s pharmacy board.

After the fatality, Dudash returned to the CVS (CVS) drugstore chain, where she had worked and passed a technician training program before landing the hospital job. CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis says she now holds a non-pharmacy job and would not grant interviews.

LaTourette, the congressman, says Americans “would be a little bit dismayed if they knew that they and their loved ones were having drugs mixed for them by people who don’t have any training requirements.”

His bill would make federal grants available to states that require all technicians — in hospitals, retail stores and other settings — to pass the national training exam administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. It would also require reporting of prescription errors to state pharmacy boards and limit the number of technicians supervised by a single pharmacist.

LaTourette says he will seek co-sponsorship from 20 members of Congress with constituents who were injured or died from errors by pharmacy technicians. He says the proposal has the backing of actor Dennis Quaid, whose newborn twins mistakenly were given 1,000 times the usual dosage of a blood thinner in November at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

A hospital investigation showed technicians failed to follow hospital policies in checking the drug’s strength. The twins recovered. Quaid’s attorney, Susan Loggans, said the actor and his family “support the regulation of people in the health care field who are not certified.”

LaTourette is optimistic his bill will become law. But it likely faces an uncertain congressional reception in a presidential election year. Pharmacy operators are expected to oppose it as unnecessary and too costly.

Sen. Timothy Grendell, R-Ohio, who introduced the state legislation, said that measure has drawn “quiet resistance” from pharmacy lobbyists over the proposed pharmacist-to-technician ratios and the prospect of higher salaries for technicians who meet the tougher standards. Supporters say they hope the planned campaign by the 35,000-member pharmacist group will help overcome opponents’ arguments.

“I think they realize in light of what happened to Emily … that something is going to get done,” says Grendell.

“We want people like us to be able to protect themselves and be able to protect their families,” says Christopher Jerry. “The only way we can see to do this right now, immediately, is with the public outcry Kelly and I are trying to produce.”

Article written by Kevin McCoy and Erik Brady, USATODAY.com. It was originally posted on 2/24/2008.

Original article can be found here.

Fatal dose: Pharmacy tech working again

Channel 3 News has learned that Pharmacy Technician Katie Ferg-Dudash, who mixed a fatal dose of Sodium Chloride that killed 2-year-old Emily Jerry is working at a local CVS Pharmacy.

In February 2006, Emily Jerry went to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital for her final dose of chemotherapy for a cancerous tumor in her abdomen. By this point, it appeared Emily had beaten the cancer but her doctors wanted her to have one more dose to make sure.

On February 26, 2006, records show Katie Ferg- Dudash was working in the IV room where chemo drugs are compounded. Records show Dudash mixed a dose of Sodium Chloride that was 24 times more than the prescribed amount. She informed supervising pharmacist, Eric Cropp, that she thought something was wrong with the mixture but neither of them stopped the dose from reaching Emily.

Emily Jerry died from the overdose on March 1st.

Now Dudash is working as a Pharmacy Technician at the Euclid CVS at E. 222nd and Lakeshore. Channel 3 was unable to reach her for comment.

CVS Corporate claims in a statement, “Prior to her employment at the hospital, Dudash worked at the Euclid location for several years as a Pharmacy Technician and had an excellent record. We were not aware of the incident at the hospital until today, in which it is our understanding there were no criminal charges filed. CVS does not allow technicians to compound medications. We have placed Katie on paid leave while we investigate this matter further.”

Last month, Cropp went before the Ohio Pharmacy Board and was stripped of his Pharmacist license. Pharmacists are held ultimately responsible for any mistake made by a Pharmacy Technician.

There are no laws in Ohio regulating the Pharmacy Technician field. So Dudash is not breaking any law, was never criminally charged and is free to continue in her field. That’s why State Senator Tim Grendell and Rep. Steve LaTourette are drafting state and federal legislation to regulate the Pharmacy Technician field. Ohio is one of a handful of states that require no certification, licensing, testing or training requirements.

Article written by Monica Robins, for WKYC.com. It was originally posted
on 5/9/2007.