“Sex and the City” actor, Evan Handler, had it hard enough fighting leukemia in his early adulthood, and now he’s speaking out about his experience with medical errors and life after cancer. He interviewed with a CNN medical correspondent about his hospital experience in the mid to late 1980’s.
Elizabeth Cohen: You write about how nurses tried to give you drugs to which you’d had “horrendous adverse reactions” even though doctors had explicitly written in your chart you shouldn’t have those drugs. A friend of mine had a similar problem, and we decided maybe he should have hung a sign around his neck with a list of the drugs he wasn’t supposed to get.
EH: That doesn’t sound like a bad idea. [A doctor once told me about] a registered nurse who had a “Do Not Resuscitate” order tattooed on her abdomen. She said she felt it was the only way her wishes would be respected.
EC: When you were being treated for leukemia, you were very, very sick. You said sometimes you were barely conscious. How’d you keep up the stamina to keep double-checking everyone’s work?
EH: I was lucky to be able to maintain my strength and do it as long as I did, and my girlfriend at the time, Jackie, was willing to sit by my side and advocate for me, and she was very skilled at doing it. You wonder, how many people die from illnesses because the strength to keep up vigilance runs out?
In his recently published autobiography, “It’s Only Temporary,” Handler dishes about much more than poor hospital care. For a glimpse of his coarse humor, check out this Late Late Show clip. Nevertheless, his quirkiness can call attention to grim stories of other millions of patients who suffer from preventable medical mistakes, and maintaining a sense of humor after you survive.