On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I took a half day off work so that my wife and I could take our 14 and 11 year old boys sled riding. We packed the sleds and snow boards into the SUV and headed for a wide open hill with not a tree in sight. The lack of trees lulled us into a false sense of security and the always mandatory helmets were left at home on the garage floor. The kind of parental stupidity that causes sleepless nights, as I would soon be reminded. The sled riding fun ended after forty-five minutes on the hill when my 14 year old fell victim to a classic freak accident and took a snow board to the head. I immediately applied direct pressure with snowballs but the extensive vascular system of the scalp was winning this battle. The hill soon looked like a crime scene and we needed to get to the nearest hospital. Fortunately, we were only two miles from a local branch of the regions largest health care provider. By the time we arrived, the direct pressure had stopped the bleeding.
An international research team has shown that death and complication rates from surgery can be dramatically improved by using simple checklists to make sure that safety measures are taken before, during, and after each operation. The research project involved nearly 8,000 patients at eight hospitals around the world and was done as part of the World Health Organization's program called Safe Surgery Saves Lives. The results were published in January 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine.