Josie's Story
by Sorrel King

Atlantic Monthly Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-802-11920-9.
Reviewed by Donna Van Straten Remmert
Posted on 10/20/2009

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

I met Sorrel King, her husband Tony and their four children at a friend's home in Boulder, Colorado a few winters ago. They were on a ski vacation that they hoped would give them a break from grieving the death of Josie, the baby of the family until Sam was born, shortly after Josie's death. I watched the King family try to fit in, laugh, look normal. Watching the kids play helped, but adults in the room felt the tension, wondered if they should mention Josie, offer their condolences again.

In 2001, Josie King, when eighteen-months-old, was badly burned in the family's new home because of a faulty water heater. She was rushed to one of the best hospitals in the nation, John Hopkins. On the very day she was supposed to go home after a remarkable recovery, she died because of a medical error.

When Josie's parents learned that ninety-eight thousand people die each year from medical errors while receiving treatment in hospitals throughout the United States, they used the money they'd received from John Hopkins as settlement to start the Josie King Foundation. This book is the story of Sorrel's fight to save other families from having to experience a death caused by medical error. She is today a leading voice in the patient-safety movement that emphasizes communication between patients, family, and medical staff.

Josie's Story: A Mother's Inspiring Crusade to Make Medical Care Safe, doesn't gloss over King's raw emotions. For year's, and even while working hand-in-hand with the very doctors she blamed for Josie's death, King was depressed, angry, and obsessed with learning the details of her daughter's death. She struggled to understand how a loving God would let this happen. All of her relationships suffered, including her marriage to Tony whose grieving process was so different from hers.

Josie's Story is a memoir with a purpose, to tell others where to go for comfort and information when experiencing horrific events similar to those the Kings had to suffer. Long lists of organizations dedicated to hospital safety are given, comprehensive advice based upon Sorrel King's experiences is offered. It is a book worth reading and keeping for access to resources. Go to The Josie King Foundation at for more information.

I spent only a few hours with the King family when they visited friends in Boulder. I recall feeling enormous empathy then. After reading this book, I also feel enormous respect for them as true American heroes. Each of them has had to sacrifice in order to accomplish their mission of helping others.

Sorrel King is a patient-safety advocate and cofounder of the Josie King Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at increasing patient safety and eliminating medical errors. She lives with her husband and their children in Baltimore, Maryland.

Check out our interview with the author of Josie's Story.

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