Skip to main content
  • Advertise
    Want to Advertise with Us?
    Conquer welcomes advertising and sponsorship collaborations with reputable companies offering high-quality products and services to people affected by cancer.
  • Affiliated Brands
    Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators
    The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) is the largest national specialty organization dedicated to improving patient care and quality of life by defining, enhancing, and promoting the role of oncology nurse and patient navigators. Our organization of over 8,900 members was founded in May 2009 to provide a network for all professionals involved and interested in patient navigation and survivorship care services to better manage the complexities of the cancer care treatment continuum for their patients. We view our organization as one consisting of “professional patient advocates” and, to that end, we support and serve our members.
    Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship
    The Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship (JONS) promotes reliance on evidence-based practices in navigating patients with cancer and their caregivers through diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. JONS also seeks to strengthen the role of nurse and patient navigators in cancer care by serving as a platform for these professionals to disseminate original research findings, exchange best practices, and find support for their growing community.
    The Oncology Nurse-APN/PA
    The Oncology Nurse-APN/PA (TON) provides coverage of the wide spectrum of oncology-related events, trends, news, therapeutics, diagnostics, organizations, and legislation that directly affect hematology/oncology nurses and advanced practitioners involved in healthcare delivery and product utilization. The scope and coverage include a unique presentation of news and events that are shaping the care of patients with cancer.
  • Healthcare Providers
  • Contribute

Sharing Their Story to Prevent Fatal Medical Errors

February 2017 Vol 3 No 1

A few weeks after beginning treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2005, 21-year-old Christopher Robin Wibeto told his mother Debra that he wasn’t afraid to die. The conversation stuck with her, because “at the time, dying wasn’t even a thought,” Debra said at a recent press conference organized by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

The doctors had told Chris and his family that the chemotherapy was working, and the cancer had been reduced by almost 50%. But then, during the last round of chemotherapy that Chris was scheduled to receive at the hospital, a serious error would cause his death within a few days.

A Fatal Mistake

Chris was mistakenly injected with the chemotherapy drug vincristine via a syringe into the fluid in his spine, which is a fatal error that leads to inevitable death.

“In one instance everything changed. In one instance any chance we had been dreaming and hoping for had been squashed by a seemingly careless and avoidable mistake,” Debra said. “Everything seemed to be moving at a rapid pace, and at the same time in slow motion. It was like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from.”

Chris was transferred to another hospital. His oncologist there, Robert W. Carlson, MD, was the one to tell Chris and his family that the situation was irreversible and would ultimately be fatal.

Debra remembers the graceful and delicate way in which the doctor broke the news, and the equally graceful way that her son received it.

“Chris, upon hearing that his life would almost certainly end, just took a deep breath and said he understood. He didn’t shed a tear, he didn’t complain. He just took in this terrible news and went on. He was a strong young man,” she said.

As most mothers would do, Debra said she wished she could take her son’s place. “No you don’t, Mom,” is all that Chris replied.

“I can’t imagine what Chris was thinking in that moment,” she said. Her son died within 4 days. “I will always have the memories of those days. Sometimes I cherish them, and sometimes the pain they cause me is unbearable,” Debra said.

She takes solace in the conversation she had with Chris in the weeks earlier, knowing he wasn’t afraid to die.

Chris’ Legacy: “Just Bag It” Campaign

Dr. Carlson was motivated by Chris’ death to prevent such errors in the future. After becoming CEO of NCCN in 2013, he worked closely with that national cancer organization to help prevent medical errors with vincristine. “It’s a mistake that does not happen too often, but if it does happen once, it is too many,” Dr. Carlson said.

Debra and her husband Robin joined Dr. Carlson and NCCN in late 2016 to announce the launch of “Just Bag It,” a new program that provides guidelines to instruct healthcare providers to administer the chemotherapy drug vincristine through a mini IV-drip bag and never use a syringe to administer this drug.

At a press conference in 2016 announcing the launch of the program, Debra and Robin remembered their son, and explained what they hoped to achieve by sharing his story.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to speak,” Debra said from the podium. “Obviously this brings up many memories, both positive and tragic. But when I thought about it, I realized if my speaking here today could save even just one life, it will be beyond worth it.”

Robin believes that if the guidelines for bagging vincristine had been in place when Chris was receiving the chemotherapy, the mistake would not have happened.

“Losing a loved one is terrible, but losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. It tore our hearts up,” Robin said. “We hope that this story will help in some ways to prevent another family from suffering this horrible loss.”

Recommended For You