Saturday, August 20, 2005

They Just Don't Get It

They just don’t get it.

Hospitals are very strange places. They are supposed to be set up to accommodate people who are in pain, immobile, handicapped and not in the best of heath. The elevators are all hung with signs proudly proclaiming their mission. The walls are adorned with pictures of happy, healthy ex-patients. But somehow they always manage to miss the boat.

My friend who is ill was admitted to the emergency room of one of the premier cancer hospitals in the nation. We arrived at 11am and she was not admitted to her room till after 7pm , giving us 8 hours to observe the wheels turning, creaking and frequently stalling.

To set the stage – she has a broken leg, a broken arm and her other arm is very weak and her hand has no strength due to complications from a cancerous tumor. She’s not exactly an ideal candidate for the Susan Koman Race for the Cure.

They plop her a room, drape one of those gowns over her clothing , hook her up to an IV with multiple tubes and then hand her a specimen cup and point her toward the bathroom.
The cup has a lid, she’s tethered to an IV and has extra layers of clothing to contend with.

We decide modesty be dammed and I go in to help her. We get the gown tangled in the IV tubes, I who have 2 good hands can’t get the cap off the wretched cup and there is no pee forthcoming. Time for the old camp trick of sticking your hand into warm water. It works. We break into gales of laughter and make so much noise we alarm the staff. I guess they don’t hear many hysterical giggling fits.

That taken care of she gets back into bed and tries to nap and I read. Hours crawl by. Dinner time arrives. Dinner, which is delivered consists of a turkey wrap, a carton of juice and a bag of baked chips, everything wrapped and sealed in plastic containers. And just how is she supposed to open it, much less eat it? I’d pilfered a couple of straws from the cafeteria so the juice is manageable. I chop the wrap into pieces with the oh so helpful (also hermetically sealed in cellophane) plastic knife and we manage somehow.

Half way through dinner the phone rings. It’s on a table, against the wall, a good 5 feet from the bed. Not only can she not answer it, but I can barely stretch the cord far enough so she can talk. It’s transportation. They will be “right down” to take her to her room. “Right Down” is hospital speak for 2 hours.

Helping someone who is coping with cancer is definitely a reality check in just how inaccessible many “handicapped” facilities really are.

And that no matter how grim it gets there is always something to laugh about.

Even if it’s just a urine specimen cup.


Robin said...

That kind of treatment is so inexcusable. Sorry that things like that happen. (People assume that it's only at Ben T.

Julie said...

Wow, that is horrible! I'm glad she has you for a friend.

alice, uptown said...

Hospitals are, in fact, a terrible place to be sick. You get the feeling that if you walked in feeling well, you would leave with some disease du jour. And emergency rooms have odd definitions of "emergency."

At mine, you need to take your own pain pills to get you through the time it takes for them to medicate you. Screaming and crying just won't do it.

Melinda said...

Sorry to hear your friend is sick. I think it can be really hard to advocate for yourself in a hospital setting when you are already feeling awful and consumed with thinking about your health. It's good that she has a friend to take care of her.

Library Lady said...

Reminds me of when my father got a WHOLE cucumber (unpeeled, uncut) as part of the kosher food tray that was supposed to be better than the standard hospital fare. (Obviously, it wasn't...)

Patients really need a friend or family member there to make sure they get what they need. My dad is blessed (!) to have my mother, who fiercly advocates for him to the point I think she SCARES staff!

Your friend is very lucky to have you there. Hope she is feeling more comfortable now.

Swinging Sammy said...

I have to say, I work in a hospital, and this stuff happens all the time. People are so busy, they just don't think about what the impact is on patients. For all of the healthcare team, my apologies

Anonymous said...

Sounds familiar-3yrs ago: had to beg spouse to take me to ER -couldn't hold head up,sit or stand-had vomited bright red blood repeatedly. He literally picked me
up and threw me in the back of his
vehicle-left doors open to check house - our 3 huge labs leaped on me. Hadn't left driveway yet. On way to hospital (23 miles) had a rear-end style fender bender-I flew
from seat to floor and did not have
energy to climb back up. He left me
there. Dropped me off at ER and went to St.Louis for 5 days to receive award as a new fellow for
Monsanto Global Seed. In ER, had to do ins.paperwork etc.alone,had to call ins. myself for pre-approval of ER visit. Waited 3hrs.for MD-still vomiting blood,heart racing over 160.Lab results showed hemoglobin less than 5 (normal for women is about 13-15) Finally MD arrives.Cursory exam - did not touch me at all. At that point I was barely conscious. Finally ordered IV of fluids and
blood transfusion. Took 90 minutes
to start IV and another 45 to start
blood - was so dehydrated and blood volume was so low, veins kept
collapsing. Finally got admitted
12 hours after arriving in ER. Transfusion site leaking - infiltrating-started new site-have no idea of how long that took.Then was told I would be doing a prep for gastroscopy and colonoscopy to be done in 8 hours in the am. Have to drink Fleet Phospho Soda 30cc of
it-vomited most of it up-eventually
got another bottle and kept about half down. Then up on commode ALL night long with IV and blood running and NO toilet paper. Buzzer
was placed out of my reach so could not summon anyone. I could barely sit erect. One of the top 10 worst nights of my life. In am
procedures are delayed 3 times and
finally done mid-afternoon. On my
4th pint of blood by then and have
had nothing orally. Fortunately, there is Fentanyl and Versed to get
one through procedures such as that I had! No discomfort and No memories! Back to room - at this point I have not even washed face or brushed teeth since arriving over 24 hours earlier. Nurse comes
in and does give me items needed for those things - but I cannot shower because that is done in the morning when rooms are 'freshened'
and linens exchanged - if necessary. Phone is on relatively short cord - hard to reach with IV and blood running. Both IV and blood running on pumps - very noisy. Pillow is plastic and noisy.
TV is 3 channels - one of them the local one. My doctor (my regular one) finally comes in - 30 hours after I was admitted. He writes new orders for meds and tests and
flips the light by my room which indicates that he has written new orders. I am unaware of this until the next morning when he stops in and asks how the Trazodone worked for sleep and if the Nexium had helped at all. I told him I had received no meds at all. Not one of the nursing staff had noticed his signal of new orders - over 12 hours and 2 nursing shifts had come and gone...By this time I was
finishing up my 6th pint of blood and was to have 2 more. When the
RN (a male) came in to start the
next unit of blood, his hands shook
the entire time. He dislodged the
cath and it was back to finding a
new vein. By this time I was ready
to weep - before I would have wept
but simply had all I could do to
hold my head up. I was discharged
the following morning. Total hospital stay less than 48 hours -
most of it spent getting IV's and blood, prepping for the procedure,
having the procedure,not getting the meds ordered, and getting more blood and IV's. I was discharged less than 2 hours after my last pint of blood was done. I had to call my daughter who lives 200 miles away to come and take me home.(husband still in St.Louis)
I am still appalled by the quality
of care, having to do a rather unpleasant prep for the gastroscopy and colonoscopy when I was so terribly weak and ill, and what seemed like haphazard, almost crude care. I have worked in healthcare my entire adult life - in pharmacy for over 21 years. So I have seen what has happened to health care from the other side. After my experience I feel that we as a system have compromised basic, safe, good patient care in order to be more cost effective.When I left the hospital, I was in no condition to be up and about, much less home. I feel I'm a very tough woman, but I was simply very, very sick.
And that's my story! Obviously I have heartfelt empathy for your friend. Dorothy in MN