Katherine Eileen Hallisy
Katherine Eileen (Kate) Hallisy was born on May 20, 1989 in San Francisco, California. Kate was the only daughter of John and Julia Hallisy and was the middle child between her older brother, Daniel Hallisy and her younger brother, Kevin Hallisy.
Kate was diagnosed at 5 months of age with bilateral retinoblastoma, which recurred many times and necessitated ten years of ongoing treatments including radiation, chemotherapy, the loss of her right eye, a life-threatening hospital-acquired infection and an above-the-knee amputation.
Kate had a wickedly funny sense of humor and a deep, booming voice that captured everyone’s attention. Unlike most people, she did not fear public speaking but embraced it by winning her school speech contest in the third grade. Kate loved to be center stage and relished every moment that she could make others smile while enjoying her performances.
Her personality was so ebullient and positive that everyone loved to be around her. She often boosted the spirits of the friends and family who came to visit her and she was always able to see the bright side of any situation. Even as a young child, she had the ability to see beauty in simple things. Kate loved storms. Once, we commented to her that we preferred clear skies because we liked to see the stars. She said, “The stars are always there, you just can’t see them for a while because they’re behind the clouds.” That comment captured Kate’s entire outlook on life.
Kate’s loves were her faithful feline companion, Fluffy, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, firework shows on the 4th of July, and her collection of Beanie Babies. Her final wish was to see the millennium – which she rang in with gusto.
Kate lost her battle with cancer on February 26, 2000. She was ten years old.
James Matthew Mannix
How could a mother who helplessly watched her newborn son die due to medical malpractice and poor communication turn down a $750,000.00 settlement? For James’s mom, the decision was an easy one. James Matthew Mannix was the fourth child for Mary Ellen.
James was born with a discrete coarctation of the aorta. James’ doctor, an internationally recognized pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon who has had surgical procedures named after him, that out of all the congenital heart defects, this was no big deal and James would be fine. “we are not talking open heart surgery here,” was what the pediatric cardiologist told her. Yet, that was exactly what they did to the two day old, 8lb 4 oz baby. James would have been fine had there not been a series of medical mistakes and mis-communication that led to his death.
After James underwent his corrective surgery, his mom knew something was not right. Despite her plea for answers and knowledge, she was met with “everything is OK” or you are just being an overly concerned new mother. The more Mary Ellen wanted answers to questions that any new concerned mother would ask, the more she was left in the dark, lonely, isolated, and unable to fight for her newborn baby that could not fight for himself. She was trying to speak on behalf of her baby that couldn’t, yet no one listened.
Even though the settlement money would have helped pay for the funeral, grave blankets, and the loss of the Mannix’s home due to medical bills, it also came with the infamous “but” clause. The “but” clause in the settlement offer was that Mary Ellen could have the money “but” would not be able to speak to anyone about what happened to her son. There was no amount of money in the world that would have stopped Mary Ellen from speaking out so that no other mother would have to endure what she and baby James did.
In the months and years that followed baby James’ death, Mary Ellen painfully learned about the truths of medicine and her dead-ended excursions with the healthcare system. Her eye-opening experience prompted her to write a book called Split the Baby, which truly expresses a real life view of patient safety and doctor-patient communications. James was a beautiful baby and unfortunately was one of the thousands of newborns that died in America that same year. Babies need their parents to be aware and engaged with their healthcare providers. Nurse, doctors, surgeons – all need to be able to communicate openly and honestly with the parents of these babies. More will live to see a birthday then.