When the Malizzos met with McDonald a few days after the surgery, Michelle, a 39-year-old mother of two young children, was on life support. She would die a few days later. An internal investigation determined that clinicians supervising the operation to implant a bypass tube in a clogged bile duct failed to notice that Michelle had stopped breathing during the surgery. It was later determined that she had been over-anesthetized and that she had suffered massive brain injury from the subsequent loss of oxygen.
"You still have that anger in you but not like it would be if they came in and said, 'Oh, it's not our fault. We didn't do anything wrong,' " Malizzo says. "Obviously you wouldn't trust anything they said after that and your anger would increase if you thought they were lying to you. You never really get over it but you learn to accept what has happened and then you have to decide what you are going to do."
Instead of hiring a lawyer, filing a lawsuit, and looking for a massive payout after years of costly litigation, the Malizzos sought another way to honor their daughter's memory. "Our immediate response to them was, 'We don't want what happened to our daughter to happen to someone else. We don't want this tragedy to go in vain. Something has to happen to prevent this from happening again.' " Malizzo says.
About 11 months after Michelle's death and with McDonald's encouragement the Malizzos accepted an invitation to serve on the UIC Medical Center's patient safety committee.