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Emily and Chris Jerry at hospital together
Emily and Chris Jerry at hospital together while Emily was undergoing treatment.

Emily was diagnosed with a yolk sac tumor when she was about a year-and-a-half old. The tumor was the size of a grapefruit inside her tiny little abdomen. Even though she was diagnosed with this frightening form of cancer, Emily’s team of doctors and nurses assured the Jerry family that Emily’s cancer was not only treatable but highly curable! Emily endured months of surgeries, grueling testing and rigorous chemotherapy sessions (which would last for five straight days). If Emily’s blond ringlets had not fallen out due to the chemotherapy, no one would have been able to tell that she was even sick. She maintained her sweet disposition and contagious little giggle throughout all of her treatments. Emily loved to play dress up with her big sister, Katherine, with all of their princess outfits! Nate, her big brother, would read to her for hours and hours, the same books over and over. Katherine and Nate adored their little sister, Emily.

Emily’s treatment had been so successful that her last MRI clearly showed that the tumor miraculously disappeared. In fact, three radiologists had to review her MRI films due to the fact that there wasn’t even any residual scar tissue left. Emily’s doctors said it was as if she never had cancer.  Regardless, she was scheduled to begin her last chemotherapy session on her second birthday, February 24, 2006.  This last treatment was just to be sure that there were no traces of cancer left inside of her little body.  The Jerry family celebrated Emily’s second birthday in the hospital.  Some of her doctors and nurses had planned a surprise party for her and showered her with gifts, balloons, and the whole works!  She had a constant flow of visitors to help with the celebration.  After Emily’s grandparents left, Nate and Katherine walked around with their proud dad, Chris Jerry, bearing cupcakes for everyone on the floor.  The Jerry family could not think of a better birthday present than being told that this was Emily’s last chemotherapy and she would be coming home cancer free.  Emily would finally be able to live as a normal two-year-old. Tragically, that never happened.

Sunday, February 26th was Emily’s third day of her last chemotherapy treatment.  It started out like any typical morning in the hospital.  Emily ate her breakfast while watching her favorite Barney episode as doctors and nurses made their morning rounds. Emily and her mom took a few laps around the floor with her IV equipment while she pedaled her big wheel with all of her might.  After playing in the activity room and scrubbing the play kitchen set with the nurses’ stash of alcohol swabs, it was time for lunch and an afternoon nap.  Emily’s grandparents stopped by for a brief visit. That was the last time they ever saw their little “Emmy” alive.
Emily with flower

The Event

Emily’s fatal dose was administered at 4:30 Sunday afternoon.  She woke up from her nap very groggy which was so out of character for her.  She kept trying to sit up and asked her mom to hold her in her lap.  As she picked her up to cuddle with her, she noticed how her little body was so listless.  She kept grabbing her head and moaning that it hurt.  Emily spotted her mother’s can of Coke that she had on the tray and begged to have a sip.  She sipped the rest of the can through the straw in a matter of seconds.  She cried for more before she started screaming, ‘Mommy, my head, my head hurts!  MY HEAD HURTS!  The whole time she was screaming she was holding the sides of her little head.  Her mother frantically called for the nurses as Emily began profusely vomiting.  Chris Jerry was just walking in as the nurses were grabbing her from her mom’s arms.  Emily went completely limp and the nurses began to resuscitate her.  Within seconds, there were doctors and nurses everywhere.  Emmy was rushed to the intensive care unit as the team was urgently attempting to find out what could possibly be going so very wrong.  Within the hour, precious Emily was on life support.

Chris and Kelly Jerry held Emily’s little hand while running along, beside her bed as she was rushed to have CT scans and other tests to determine the extent of damage to her brain.  Since the life support machines could not go through the scans with her, the nurses climbed on the bed and manually kept her breathing during the testing.  This was so surreal to have this happening and still no answers as to why Emily was dying.  This couldn’t really be happening!  The Jerry family should have been having dinner and talking with Nate and Katherine on the phone to make sure that they had their book bags packed and ready for school.  What were they going to tell Nate and Katherine?  The last time they saw their little sister alive was on her birthday, February 24th.  They were not allowed to visit on the weekend due to the cold and flu policy.  No one got any sleep that night.  The Jerrys sat on Emmy’s bed holding her hands and kissing her little toes as the machines kept her body alive, hoping that when they woke up this terrible nightmare would be over.  It never ended.  It just got worse for the Jerrys.

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The next morning the room was filled with strangers’ horror-filled faces as we were told of how this little angel, Emily Jerry, wound up brain dead and on life support.  Her mom and dad were told that even though she was still being kept alive by life support, Emily was essentially dead due to the massive brain damage she had incurred. Emily was killed by an overdose of sodium chloride in her chemotherapy IV bag.
Emily smiling

Wednesday, March 1st  was supposed to be a day of celebration.  Before entering the hospital, the Jerrys had planned a belated birthday and a cancer-free party  for Emily. Instead, little Emily was delivered to the Cuyahoga County Morgue.

What Happened?

A pharmacy technician who had been working at the hospital for quite a number of years decided not to use a standard prepared bag   of sodium chloride solution (with less than 1% of sodium chloride solution).  Instead, the pharmacy technician filled a plastic bag with a concentrated sodium chloride solution of 23.4% of which she had compounded herself.  When the pharmacy board investigators and other officials investigating Emily’s death asked the technician why she had made this outrageous error, she replied that she did not know.  She claimed that she knew that something was not right but she was not sure.  The pharmacy technician was asked if she knew that an overdose of sodium chloride could result in death. She claimed that she was not aware of that fact.  How can a person who works in a pharmacy and compounds medications daily not know that? At the time of Emily’s death, Ohio didn’t even register pharmacy technicians. In fact, there weren’t even any training or licensing requirements.


Immediate following the tragedy, the Jerrys committed to finding out first, exactly what happened to Emily and then subsequently, worked toward the passage of Emily’s Law in the state of Ohio. Shortly after the passage of Emily’s Law, Chris Jerry established the Emily Jerry Foundation (EJF) in August of 2009. Under this umbrella as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization,  Chris continued to build awareness while seeking out comprehensive solutions which would not only have prevented Emily’s tragic death but also would prevent all types of tragic medical error from happening to anyone else in the future. He was thrown into this huge pool of patient safety advocates.

There was a financial settlement with the hospital, which the Jerrys are under contract and restricted from talking about. However, the media has left an impression that the settlement was very large and the Jerrys are financially all-set. This is not true. While there was indeed a settlement, it was ten times lower than what was initially offered because Chris insisted on being able to talk about Emily, so that her short life here on earth would not be in vain. In the end, Chris refused to sign the full non-disclosure agreement and the offer of this very large sum of money fell through. Kelly and her family were very distraught over this chain of events and there was tremendous strife inside the Jerry family.

The emotional stress and turmoil resulting from Emily’s death began to take it toll, and as often happens to couples when they lose a young child, the Jerrys separated and divorced shortly after the passage of Emily’s Law and before the Foundation was officially formed. After many emotionally-charged events inside the Jerry family, the divorce papers were filed by Kelly shortly after one such incident. After all the dust settled, the divorce ended badly for Chris.

The “Real Deal”

Still, Chris Jerry was determined to carry on his idea that in Emily’s name he could make a difference. With now little-to-no support from his family, which continued to tear apart even further, culminated by illnesses, death, and family turmoil, causing even more emotional stress on Chris, he carried on. Through it all, Chris Jerry continued to move the Foundation forward as he felt was so important that he would sacrifice his life to accomplish his goal. He continued to speak with as many people as he possibly could, morning to night, making speeches on occasion when invited (over 100), teaching classes about preventable medical errors and continuing his investigation of solutions, working with who he defined as “partners” in his mission. There was really no separation between Chris Jerry the person, and Chris Jerry the foundation. For seven long years, Chris had pretty much done it all alone, with very little money, and little-to-no money coming in from the so-called partners. So through these turbulent times, the Foundation received very little in gifts or donations. Why? Because Chris never asked. He thought that being poor was his plight in life as the founder of a non-profit. Amazingly, he really did not understand the mechanics of a non-profit, or what it took to start a business. To this day, his living expenses are covered by limited funds provided through a small portion of the annuity left over from his difficult divorce. Through it all, he thought many times about giving up and throwing in the towel and getting a “real” paying job, but he forged on.

New Beginning

Then in May 2016, Chris met Al Harlow at a charity event in his newly adopted home of Chagrin Falls. Chris and Al spent over 4 hours together inside an enclosed ticket booth one afternoon at the Jaycees Blossom-time carnival event by the falls over Memorial day weekend, selling tickets and getting to know each other. Moved by Chris’s story and motivated by the cause, Al immediately began working with Chris to restructure the Emily Jerry Foundation.  As a seasoned entrepreneur, Al knew how to start, build and run a business, and he saw that Chris obviously needed guidance about the mechanics of running his nonprofit. The difference between nonprofits and for-profits stems from what the motivators are, but both forms are still businesses and EJF in order to be successful and achieve its mission, needed to be run as such. At first, he and Chris worked together to revamp the Foundation’s website. It served as a dynamic tool to help formulate the plan for the future, so the Foundation could realistically achieve its mission which was newly defined and focused more specifically on medication errors, as opposed to the larger problem, medical errors and patient safety. This was an important change.

In accepting the role of President & COO in August 2016, Al continued in a more formalized manner, to lead the Emily Jerry Foundation through what is now amounting to be a very exciting period of rebirth. Not only a rebirth for the Foundation but also for Chris Jerry personally, who as Founder & CEO, built a stellar reputation, with integrity and professionalism in the seven years of his dedicated work. Along with bringing on Al, the Foundation hired Robert Rosenfeld, Esq. as a much needed Director of Planned Giving. Bob not only has a law degree but also, more importantly, has tremendous experience in working with charitable organizations. Through their work together, working to recruit a new Board, find an Executive Committee, reconnecting with past partners and working towards creating a reliable and steady structure for growth, EJF has now entered a new era, with a much better ability to accomplish its core mission to eradicate medication errors entirely.

Over $1,000,000 in contributions and donations are projected to be received in 2017. This is larger than the total amount of ALL donations received in combination since EJF was formed in 2009. The new management team truly believes now, with this new level of momentum and help from others like you who is reading this, under EJF’s new structure and realigned leadership, the mission to eradicate medication mistakes will be accomplished within our lifetimes.

See EJF’s initiatives , which are designed to help move our audacious goal forward and save lives. Simply pick the initiative you’d like your funding to be put towards. As a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, your donations are fully tax-deductible.

With help from generous donations of others, now EJF’s mission is achievable. Donate now.