Thursday, January 21, 2010

I've had my share of illness and I consider myself a good patient. I don't order the nurses or office staff around, I say yes ma'am and thank you. I do what they ask, and try to help them help me. I never call a Dr by his/her first name, no matter how many years I've been treated by them. The health care workers that I have come in contact with, seem to appreciate the way I respond to them. So why do I find myself so irritated every time I deal with the medical field? Well,let me share what I went through during my last medical visit and you'll understand.

Not too long ago, I took a trip to the emergency room. I was sitting at home, in my chair, talking to my husband, laptop in use when............. the next thing I knew, I was in the floor with an EMT hovering over me asking if I knew my name. I wasn't sure what had happened, but I had obviously scared my husband to death, so off I went with my new found EMT friend. She talked to me all the way to the hospital, told me everything she was doing, starting an IV, putting the patches on my chest to watch my heart rhythms, etc. She was very nice and seemed to genuinely want to help me. The ride was uneventful, but I was still a little shaky, somewhat nauseous and unsure of what had happened. At the hospital I was transfered to a bed in the ER, introduced to a Dr. (whose name I can't remember), listened while the EMT's gave him my story according to my husband, filled in with some uh huh's or uh uh's when they asked me questions that I knew the answer to and said goodbye to my EMT friend as she wished me well and left. Then the "fun" began.

First of all, I don't know about you, but I can't tell the difference between the nurses and the other hospital workers. They all wear scrubs and/or lab coats, so unless they come in and tell me what their position is, I don't know. So I'll call them as I saw them :)

My first visitor, (scrubs wearer #1) came in to take blood. I am a breast cancer survivor who endured a regimen of chemo. Because they removed lymph nodes at the breast removal site, I am not supposed to have blood pressure or needle sticks in that arm. This caused a problem right off the bat. NOBODY wants to take blood from my right arm, they pick up my left arm and I pull it down and say "sorry, you have to stick the other arm". Then they usually pin or tape a sign on my gown, on the door of the room, above the head of my bed, in my chart, etc.. I guess this lets everyone else know, this one is trouble! Sort of like wearing a scarlet letter only this is usually a huge sign written in Sharpie! Of course the veins in my right arm are terrible, small and weak because, you guessed it, that's the arm they injected with the chemo. Anyway, my first scrub wearer was a nervous wreck when she could not find a suitable vein, even though she patted, rubbed, and squeezed the rubber band around my upper arm, turned it over, looked it up and down, patted some more, but, for the life of her she just could not decide which vein to try. I tried to be helpful and show her where I had blood drawn last, but she didn't like the looks of that area. She tried once... no luck. She continued to squeeze, pat, rub and look my arm over.

My second visitor another scrubs wearer, came in to check to be sure that all my wires and such were attached. They began to chat amongst themselves. Talking about other co-workers. Scrubs wearer #2 opened the trash can to throw away some of the sticky things from the electrodes and KABAM!!**!!, the worst smell I have ever inhaled escaped from that trash can. Her face turned red and she looked at scrubs wearer #1 and said "Oh my gosh, can you smell that?" I was already nauseated, and I said, "Uuugghhh I can smell it, what is it?" She turned even redder then said "Oh it's just the trash." Sorry, folks, but that was not trash!! It was something in the trash, but not trash!! It was awful. Scrubs wearer #1 did not reply but changed the subject and started fretting over the time it was taking her to get my blood drawn. She discussed with scrubs wearer #2 about whether or not "Martha" was going to get on her for taking so long. She tried for the second time, this time she got in the vein, but collapsed it after a couple of drops. About that time, scrubs wearer #3 entered the room, and asked how it was going. She gave a few suggestions as to which type of needle to use and then told scrubs wearer #1 to come with her. At this point I was assuming this was "Martha". She looked at me and said, "We'll be back, we are going to get some supplies." They left and scrubs wearer #2 left behind them. Sometime during all of this my husband and 2 daughters were allowed to come back to my room, fortunately for them, they missed the trash smell. I told them about it as soon as we were alone and begged them not to open the lid of the trash can. My oldest daughter was distressed at the condition of the room and started talking about blood and hair on the floor under my bed. I assured her that it was not mine, because 2 drops of blood was about all they had gotten out of me and no one had touched my hair. What with the blood, hair, and my stinky trash story, she was all ready to "discuss" the issue with someone.

Enter...Scrubs wearer #4. This one; I remember her name. Tabitha. So, in comes Tabitha, saying, "I'm here to suck some blood out of you". I think she was trying to be funny, but I was in the middle of reading the "Twighlight" series of books, so.....not so funny. I told her that the other girl was gone to get supplies and she said "I am the supplies!". Cocky or confident, I'm not sure. Regardless, she began the process of finding a vein. Again with the rubber band, squeezing, patting, dangling, turning the arm over and over, she was not, shall we say, 'cautious', as the first girl was. She went for it, and blew it, the vien, that is, then tried again, got a little blood, and collapsed another one. By now, I had cotton balls taped all over my arms. So... Ms. "I am your supplies" decided that the only way to get enough blood for the tests ordered was to prick my finger and squeeze until she filled all of her vials. Twenty minutes of squeezing, she decided she had enough. My finger was sore for a week! While she squeezed (luckily she was not sucking) she talked to us. She asked which Dr. I had. I didn't know his name, so I described him the best I could. He talked and looked sort of military like, had a flat top, was confident that he would prove that I had a seizure. Tabitha, says, "Oh yeah, I know who you are talking about, he sucks!" {What is it about this girl with her "suck" fetish????} It was a little unnerving to think that this girl, a co-worker of my doctor, had the nerve to tell "me", (who by the way was the patient of said Dr), that the Dr. treating me wasn't any good. Or is that what she meant? Did she mean, sucks, as in he was a bad Dr? Or, sucks, as in she didn't like him as a person or co-worker? Or was she reading the "Twilight" series too? Either way, she didn't have time to explain herself because scrubs wearer #5, (this time, a male) came in to take me to have some sort of test run. I had been asking since scrubs wearer #1 came in to use the restroom. Luckily I was allowed to take care of that before I left with him. My daughters accompanied me down the hall to take care of business and when we got back to the room, the transporter was not there so the family had a chance to talk again. My oldest again spoke up about the unprofessional way the "blood sucker" had behaved. She remembered going to school with her and said her name was Tabitha. So Tabitha the blood sucking, finger squeezing, cocky scrubs wearer #4, did not make a good impression.

I behaved myself and went with the flow, having tests run etc. This took hours, we came in about dinner time and well up into the night we were still waiting. The nurses desk was right outside my door. We had been listening to them all evening. Deciding whether someone was going to Taco Bell and bring back dinner for everyone, what "he" said and "she" said to so and so, etc. It was apparent that some were extremely busy, while others just kind of hung around to shoot the sh**. After I had been taken for tests, no one came in to check on me. NO ONE. I was in the hospital for a suspected seizure and no one came in. During this time, my IV fluid bag ran out. My husband stepped out the door and asked one of the scrubs wearers if she would check on it. She said let me get some one. No one came. He waited about 45 minutes and went out to ask again. This time she came in, looked to see that the bag was indeed empty, then said, I'll get someone. Again, no one came. The machine was running trying to push fluids through the needle, with no fluid in the bag. No one came to turn off the machine and unhook the empty bag until the Dr. admitted me that night. We were all exhausted, so I sent the girls home and my husband stayed with me.

Just when I thought things were going to calm down, in came the floor nurse, wanting to take all my information. We went through the same information sheet that they had done downstairs in the ER. I was getting a little irritable at this point, and I wanted to say, do you not share information within your own hospital! I didn't. Like I said, I'm a good patient, and she (a scrubs wearer) was just doing her job. Finally about 1:00am, they left us alone for a few hours of sleep.

Their were a couple of other things that made my jaw tighten. I have been on medication for years. I took one particular medicine for 5 years. It was a 10mg tablet, that I took twice a day. About a year ago, I was put on a different medication, it is a 2.5mg tablet, once a day. In the ER when I was answering the sheet of questions I mistakenly told them I was on 10mg of my current medicine once a day. No one checked to see if I was correct, even though the medication I'm on now is not in a 10mg tablet,(I found this out later) nor is it a recommended dosage for anyone for any reason. I questioned why I was taking 4 tablets instead of one, and the nurse said that's 10mg. I take some of the blame for telling them incorrectly. I am extremely happy that an overdose of this particular medicine for 3 days is not life altering. I'm a good patient, I took the medicine. I was sent for many tests throughout my stay. During one I was pushed down a hall, into an empty room and left. I was drowsy from medication and lack of sleep, and woke up to a technician raising cain because someone just left me in her room without supervision or telling her that I was in there. She had a point, I was in the hospital for a suspected seizure and probably should not have been left alone. I was on a heart monitor that someone unplugged during all these tests. In the middle of the night a scrubs wearer came in and fussed because she was getting calls from telemetry telling her they weren't getting a reading and someone needed to check. She wanted to know why I hadn't been hooked back up. I guess it's a good thing that they weren't getting a reading because my heart had stopped. :~ I spent three days and nights with the Medical Center and for some reason at about 3:00am one morning it was important to wake me up to weigh me. I was very cranky, but I bit my tongue and complied and said thank you when they finished. Like I said, I'm a good patient!

Once I was admitted to a floor in the hospital, I have to say the nurses that took care of me, really took care of me. I knew who was the nurse and who was the tech because they came in and wrote their names on a dry erase board every shift change. These women were unbelievable. The respect I have for nurses and techs too, is undeniable. I could not do what they do. The shifts that they work are gueling, the responsiblities they have are bound to be burdensome. They still took the time to get to know my family and talk grandchildren with me. They were amazingly friendly, and seemed to work much harder and seemed to have less time to decide if they were going to eat Taco Bell, than the "scrubs wearers" in the ER. Maybe because they were taking care of me!

People like me write things like this and seem ungrateful. I really appreciate nurses and techs. That's why I try to be a good patient. I am so grateful for their care and that they choose to live their lives by making a difference in the lives of people who really need them!

To answer my own question, my irritation comes from the way the system works. I guess it's that way in every field. You have those who really want to do their job well. It's not just a job for them, it's part of their life. Then you have those who think it's a good way to make money and a great career choice because people are always going to get sick. Yes, my stay at the Medical Center made the hospital money. A lot of money according to my bill. It helped pay Tabitha's salary and gave her job security. The difference lies here. I am a patient, not product, a person, not a commodity. The hospital personnel that knows the difference are the ones that I will contine to respect, and be in awe of their self sacrifice and sense of duty to their patients.

As a side note, I talked to a couple of my personal Dr's about my Medical Center experience. Both of them told me I should call and ask to speak to a patient representative. "The Medical Center will want to know about these things." One of them was really concerned about the medication mistake. He used to head a committee that watched over that sort of thing. "Call them" he said. I called, I filed a report, after several weeks they contacted me by letter saying basically this. The Medical Center is sorry, we were busy, things don't always get done like they are supposed to, but we try. The pharmacist didn't see anything wrong with that dosage of medication. (Remember now, the prescribing Dr. told me that is not an accepted dosage of that medication for any reason) I came away from the experience with, it is what it is. But......I have decided, I will continue to be a good patient, I will say thank you and yes ma'am. I will help my care givers help me, but I will not always tighten my jaw and go with the flow. In fact, I may flap my jaws a little. Kind of like I did here!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Moments to share

I've been thinking about sharing some of the moments in my life. Some moments are just too good to keep to yourself, and others just need to be ranted about.

My sister told me that, writing down my thoughts will release the stress of difficulties in life. "It helps to get it off your chest. Put it all out there in black and white" she said. Does ranting and raving in print sound less like ranting and raving? Hmm, I wonder.

I follow a few blogs. Most of them for entertainment, some for inspiration and some I follow because people interest me. I think about the thought processes of other people and how they deal with the moments of their life. What path did someone follow to live a particular moment in their life? How does anyone know, what moments in life are worth writing down to share with someone you don't even know?

I'm 48 years old. Does any one care, if I share my wonderful moments or my ranting and raving moments? After thinking about it, I've decided it doesn't matter. Life's moments are not about that. Deciding to share a moment, or a thought, or a rant and rave, should not have a "who's going to see you do it" attached to it. Sharing the moments should give the author, personal satisfaction. A written reminder of "the" moment. A picture of words, if you will.

As the saying goes, "it's not about the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath". So good moments or bad, shared or not, I think I'll write about some of them.

Everyday is a present. Open it and see what you get.