Kate O’Reilley is a physician, specializing in anesthesiology. In late 2009, Kate was plunged into a painful battle in a high-profile, medical malpractice suit. The calamity that ensued nearly destroyed Kate and her family. After the suit ended and the wounds started to heal, Kate was urged by close friends and co-workers to document her experiences. The words flowed, and It’s Nothing Personal was born from Kate’s journey through her temporary hell.
Kate’s second book, In Good Hands, is a moving, gripping, and tragic story of an anesthesiologist who dispenses her own version of justice after being the innocent victim of a brutal crime.
Kate currently resides in Colorado with her husband and beautiful daughter. In her spare time, she enjoys running, writing, reading, and spending time with her family. Her vacations are always spent in Hawaii, a place that Kate and her family hold dear to their hearts. Having lived on Oahu while her daughter was young, Kate and her family relish the day when they can return to the islands permanently.
1. How did you come up with the title of your book?
There was nothing else I could have named it. Nothing else would have been fitting.
Four years ago, in February, 2009, a drug-addicted surgical scrub technician named Kristen Parker went on a heinous crime spree that destroyed many lives, including my own. Allegedly, Parker stole syringes of Fentanyl from anesthesiologists, injected herself with the drug, refilled the contaminated syringe with saline, and returned it before the theft could be detected. The diabolical tech knew that she had hepatitis C. She knew the virus could be transmitted through contaminated needles and syringes. Yet, she callously chose to expose innocent and helpless patients to her potentially deadly affliction.
It was months before the hospital administration and health officials uncovered her crimes. During that time, Parker continued to put countless patients at risk. In the end, over five thousand patients were potentially exposed to the virus during their surgical procedures. A nationally publicized health scare ensued. Ultimately, over thirty patients tested positive for a strain of hepatitis C that was genetically linked to that of Parker’s.
Months later, I was devastated to learn that I was one of many anesthesiologists who ended up with an infected patient, and I was being sued for medical malpractice. For my entire career, I had practiced medicine with the intention of doing no harm. I have always cared deeply for my patients. The claim that I had hurt one of my patients was a blade that pierced my soul. Initially, I suffocated in the guilt and sorrow that I felt for all of the patients involved, including my own. At that time, I had no idea what atrocities awaited me over the course of the litigation process. The three-year long ordeal nearly destroyed me. Every day, I lived in constant dread.
Throughout the entire lawsuit, I heard the same three words over and over again . . . “It’s nothing personal.” The words were spoken by my lawyers, my friends, and my colleagues. When the patient’s attorneys said I was ultimately the one to blame for my patient’s infection because I was the one who injected the virus into my patient’s bloodstream, my lawyer’s reminded me, “It’s nothing personal.” When I was slaughtered in a biased article on the front page of the local newspaper, my colleagues said, “It’s nothing personal.” They were wrong. Everything I stood for as a physician and as a person was being challenged. It could not have been more personal. My integrity was one the line.
2. What is your writing environment like?
It’s an absolute mess. We have a home office, with a nice, comfy leather chair and a beautiful cherry desk. But I have never once gone in there to write. I prefer the couch in the family room. I always sit in the same place – on the far left end next to the window. Surrounding me is a sea of papers. The mess drives my family crazy, but I think it particularly upsets our dog.
In my early stages of writing, there was always room on the couch for Ginger. She would look up at me with hope and love, waiting for an invite. All I would have to say was, “Where’s my writing buddy?” Somehow, she knew. She would jump up beside me and rest her head on my keyboard. It made writing a challenge with a snout in my way, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Now, when her space is cluttered with junk, she looks up at me with sad eyes until I clear room for her.
3. What is your favorite quote? Why?
I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Marilyn Monroe
This quote sums up my overriding philosophy on life. I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason . . . especially the bad things. It’s the painful experiences that challenge us to stand back up, slightly stronger than before. The times when everything around us seems to crumble are the moments when we are able to see past the walls we have erected and explore new realities. When it seems like we have lost everything, that’s when we realize the treasures in our lives that have been there all along.
4. How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
My parents divorced when I was only six. My sister and I lived with my mother, who worked as an administrative assistant. Her job didn’t pay exceptionally well, and she constantly struggled to make ends meet.
On the other hand, my father was very successful. He owned his own business, lived in a nice house, drove a fancy car, and belonged to a country club. The two worlds could not have been more different.
Moving between such dissimilar environments allowed me to see people from many walks of life and to appreciate their differences. That perspective has proven to be invaluable when creating characters and making them come to life.
5. What inspires you to write?
With respect to It’s Nothing Personal, I wanted the chance to tell a very important story. First and foremost, I hope it sheds some light on the other side of a medical malpractice lawsuit. In high-profile cases, the press chronicles the plight of the patient, while the physician is often vilified. Because the physician’s attorneys advise them not to comment, the doctor is helpless to defend his or her name. Adding further to the physician’s sense of shame is the fact that the public often interprets a physician’s silence as evidence of their guilt. Meanwhile, the physician suffers in solitude through a broad range of emotions, including depression, disgrace, guilt, self-doubt, hopelessness, and anger. Hopefully It’s Nothing Personal will open peoples’ eyes to how destructive a malpractice claim can be to a doctor – not merely on a professional level, but on a personal level as well.
Secondly, I hope it somehow helps other doctors who may be going through something similar. Personally, one of the hardest parts about being sued was the sense of isolation. I was immediately advised that I could not discuss the case with my colleagues – the very people who were most likely to have understood my grief and perhaps helped me cope. Particularly in my case, although I knew many of my colleagues were also being sued, I didn’t know which ones. It made me feel tainted, like I had a beacon flashing over me and informing the world of my alleged sins. It was an enormous burden to bear.
6. What do you consider the most challenging part about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Without a doubt, editing. Writing the first draft is (relatively) easy and fun. I place my fingers on the keyboard and let the story spill onto the computer screen.
But then, going back and making it perfect – that’s tough work. I’ve learned how critically important it is to have as many people read my manuscript as possible. Every one brings their individual talents and perspectives into the review. Different people catch different mistakes. Every mistake counts.
7. Did you learn anything while writing this book? If so, what was it?
It taught me that I still have it. When I went to college, no one in my family had ever earned a four-year degree. There were certainly no family members with advanced degrees amongst my clan. But during my college education, I decided I was going to go to medical school and become a physician. The odds were against me, but I did it. I worked hard, made sure everything was perfect, left nothing to chance, and never stopped trying. What I have found over the course of writing two novels is that the tenacity and drive that took a young woman all the way to a career in medicine still exists within me. The process of writing has revived a fire inside me. I feel more capable and empowered than I have in a very long time.
8. What have you done to promote this book?
For the past year, I have been working tirelessly building a strong following on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. That has been extremely rewarding. It’s amazing how many wonderful people I’ve befriended that I never would have had the opportunity to know otherwise.
I’ve also been busy on my blog, katevsworld.com. Having the blog has provided me with a mental break from writing and editing the novel. It allows me to be creative, take chances, have fun, and express myself. The blog is also my place where I can test the waters – find out what people like, what they find funny, what touches them.
As for the real promotion efforts, the time is now. I have interviewed with a local television news station about my ordeal. My book blog tour is underway. We will be sending out a press release soon formally announcing the release of It’s Nothing Personal. This is all very exciting, but also a bit overwhelming.
9. What are some of the best tools available today for writers?
Good friends and family. Beyond any computer program or editing service, my friends have been invaluable. They love me enough to let me drone on endlessly about my book. They care enough about me to give up an entire weekend reading, reviewing, and editing my manuscript. But mostly, their unconditional support has given me the courage to keep going.
10. Is there anything else you would like to share?
It’s Nothing Personal can be purchased through Amazon in eBook and paperback formats. My website is http://www.kateoreilley.com and my blog is http://katevsworld.com. I would love to hear from people on Twitter, Goodreads, or Facebook.
Thank you so much for interviewing me. I very much enjoyed the opportunity.