Saturday, June 2, 2012

There are no Dumb Questions

A Hospital is not my favorite place for hanging out, but I waited with my two nieces and a friend from four o'clock until 9:30 p.m. when my sister came out of surgery. If you have ever had a loved one in the hospital and undergoing surgery, you know the tension you are under and the worry that niggles at your mind while you pass the time trying to read or watching mindless TV.

Some people place complete confidence in the staff of the hospital and believe them when they tell you what will happen. I, on the other hand, am suspicious of anything I hear. This is because I have seen many errors made by well-meaning doctors and nurses.

Before my sister was taken to the operating room, her nurse asked her, "Which leg is broken and needs surgery?" My sister told her it was the right one. "Good," she said. "They will ask you that before they put you under, so remember to tell them it is the right one."

My niece laughed at this and said, "I don't believe they would make a mistake. This boot is on her right leg."

I said that would seem obvious to us, but many times in the operating room, wrong legs have been amputated, breasts have been removed that were not diseased, and other things that we assume could never happen. They now mark with a marking pen the correct limb for the surgeon to work on.

The nurse agreed. "You don't assume that in the operating room they will know." 

My worry was put to rest when the surgeon came into the pre-opt room and asked for a marking pen. He had to go out and find one, but then he did make a mark on the correct leg. I was told they also go through a check list before they begin to make sure everyone knows what is going to happen and to be prepared for anything that might go wrong. 

I felt good about the procedure. The surgeon was thorough and I had confidence in him. After the two hour operation, he came to the surgical waiting room and talked to us and explained how well she had done. He said we would be called when my sister was put back in her room.

From that point on nothing went according to what we had been told. We waited two hours and no one called us. I called the CCU and was told she had just been brought to the room and they would call us when we could come in. We were also informed we should have been in the second floor Family Waiting room instead of the first floor surgical waiting room. I guess, if we had not called, we could have sat there all night. We went to the correct waiting room, and still no one came to get us. We waited another hour until one of our party decided to see what was happening. She went to the unit and found my sister in a room.
She found a nurse who said, "We were not told there was family waiting." Finally, we got to go in and see my sister. 

Those kinds of things make me suspicious of a hospital. The CCU nurse said my sister was not brought back to the unit after surgery. She was left in recovery until someone from CCU went down to get her. We don't know how long she was in recovery while we waited and she waited to be put in a room. All of these mishaps prolonged our worry, made my sister more uncomfortable and left me worrying about her care. 

These are the reasons I don't assume things will go on as planned in a hospital. No one intentionally goofs up, but often they don't pay attention to important details. No questions are dumb questions when one is acting as an advocate for a sick relative or friend, and many times if we don't ask them, our patient gets poor medical care. Perhaps it takes some bad experiences to learn this lesson, and I have had my share of bad medical experiences. I'm thinking of writing a book on the medical mistakes I've witnessed. Some of them resulted in the loss of lives.

Have you ever had scary mistakes made in hospitals or nursing centers? 

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