Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hospitals are Not Recommended for Sick People

I had originally intended to share some of the (relatively few) humorous anecdotes that occurred during my 23 days of hospitalization. However now that I am home, I am finding that recalling details of my recent ordeal have been actually causing me a fair amount of anxiety.

Though we offhandedly think of the hospital as a place for cure and healing, the required practices one encounters there seem to contradict that very goal. Though I was fortunate to be attended by lot of very caring and professional staff, at other times I was forced to challenge people who appeared to be conducting procedures by rote and, seemingly, without any thought as to what they were doing. Take for example the nursing aid that, at 4:00 AM, I fortunately stopped from wrapping a blood pressure cuff around the arm in which my IV infusion was flowing.

There also appeared to be some undercurrent of professional controversy between a few of the many physicians on my case as to what treatments I should receive. One day I found myself being wheeled back into ICU to have my heart “restarted” when a different cardiologist intervened, suggesting the procedure was unnecessary. At another point I had been convinced by one cardiologist that I needed a pacemaker. Hell, if getting a pacemaker would get me home safe-and-sound, I was all for it. But that decision was overturned by a second cardiologist. Though I had little influence on the outcomes, I’m happy to say I did not come home with a pacemaker planted in my chest.

I was trying my best to remain informed and involved in my treatment. But I am not a doctor, I depend on getting the (consistently) best advice I possibly can. When the professional advice was contradictory, it caused me a lot of emotional stress. I wondered that if one were a cardiologist who specializes in pacemakers, wouldn’t you naturally be a biased advocate for their use? Like the saying goes – When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Any form of sleep is nearly impossible in a hospital, particularly if one does not have a private room. My nights were continually interrupted. There seemed no end of tasks, no reason too trivial, to motivate the staff to enter the room and disturb the patient. One night the door opened, the lights came on; an aid simply taped a piece of paper to the wall across from my bed. I often couldn’t see any purpose for the interruptions.

A number of different (noisy) roommates cycled through sharing my room; at least four of them had the television blaring Fox News 24/7. Often they slept through the din of noise pollution. One day I hadn’t noticed until Nancy came to visit that my roommate had long since been wheeled out of the room for some procedure – the TV blaring Fox with no one there to watch. I spent most nights wearing earplugs and a face mask to shade my eyes.

Naturally I did everything within my means to demonstrate to the physicians and staff that I could be released at the earliest; I walked, I assiduously performed my breathing exercises. It paid off – on the evening of March 20th, a Sunday, the wires and tubes were disconnected from my body and I was packed off for home. I was in pain, but I must confess… to sleep in my own bed next to my living wife was as close heaven as anything I can imagine.

32 comments:

Elisabeth said...

This remains me of my brief stay on hospital last year with my broken leg. Hospitals are not places for rest, definitely not for sleep and you're right about the need to do the best you can to get out of them. I'm glad you succeeded.

Jerry said...

Simple logic and patient consideration would dictate that medical decisions would be determined and agreed upon prior to the patient being involved. Don't people think?

In spite of it all -- here you are. I am pleased.

DJan said...

Was it really 23 days? That goes to show how differently time passed for me than it did for you. I am also so glad you made it through that ordeal and now seem to be well on the way to wholeness.

Rain said...

TV in a hospital room would be one of the worst possible things I can imagine for having any peace. And then to have what was on there controlled by someone else, even worse. One of my objections to the Corvallis hospital (I was there for a few days after a surgery) is no private rooms at all. That puts a person at the mercy of who the other patient is. I got lucky my time and had nobody until the day I was finally able to leave. If I hadn't been ready to leave before that, I would have been then.

On having different doctors disagreeing, I can't even imagine how scary that would be. It seems like there ought to be one doctor who has the say but sounds like there isn't and worse when they discuss it all right in front of you. Ack!

alwaysinthebackrow said...

I've never understood why they make it so difficult to sleep in a hospital. It goes against all logic. A television blaring Fox would have put me over the edge-not conducive to good health, or a good heart.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Elizabeth I remember the ordeal you went through with your broken leg and how long it took you to recover. No doubt you made more progress when out of the clutches of the medical establishment.

Jerry I didn't mention also the "Hospitalist", yet another layer of doctor who would come in and apparently oversee the continuity of care. There was a different Hospitalist on duty each day.

DJan OMG yes, 23 days! I got to the point where I didn't want to know what day it was least I become depressed. I also almost resigned myself that I was never going to leave, that way I did not set myself up for disappointment. The days ran together to the point where I thought I was living in the Bill Murray movie, "Groundhog Day".

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain Few if any single rooms are a big drawback at Good Samaritan. They tried to get me into a single room but the place was full. I think I had two nights where I didn't have a roommate. As far as the doctors go, my being a person who likes to have some sense of control went out the window; I lay there and could only let people do things to me. It depresses me to recall it.

BackRow The noise, the interruptions, lights turned on, doors left open... there is such a flurry of activity, even at night, that it is impossible to escape.

John Myste said...

That is one of my favorite quotes and I quote it often: If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

My mom is currently undergoing diagnoses to determine the best treatment for her congestive heart failure (two values) and one heart attack. I will keep the pace maker controversy in mind if they suggest something radical for her.

adrielleroyale said...

Oh wow, that is a lot of ... yuck! Especially the loud tv, I can't stand watching the news or having the tv constantly going. The lack of sleep would wear on me too! How wonderful to be back at home though under the care of a much less hardened soul. ;)

Paul said...

Robert, I empathize with you...I am glad that you are at home...:-)

Antares Cryptos said...

I wonder if they would graduate if there was a course on bedside manner.

You're home, you're getting better, that's all that matters.

Left you a response with a link you'll like.:)

Robert the Skeptic said...

John Wow, your Mom has a rough row to hoe, there. Makes me feel like I got off light.

adrielle The dark and quiet of home are a much welcome relief.

Paul Thanks, Paul. A bunch of us are in agreement!

Cryptos Actually their bedside manners were great, It seemed more to me like an issue of "too many cooks spoil the broth." I checked the link, never heard of Nancy Grace but is she a moron or what!!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rest and quiet...in such limited supply at the hospital. Perhaps the loud tvs and middle of the night interruptions are planned, ways to motivate the patient to get better on his/her own. And you did it! What a relief, for you, for your family, to have you home, being restored to yourself. Good job. Cheers.

Paul said...

At one time hospitals were called "houses of mercy".

Robert the Skeptic said...

Marylinn If indeed there is subterfuge on the part of the hospital to harass me out of there, it worked exceedingly well.

Paul No doubt the hospital internees were begging for mercy... I know I was.

Mandy's Kidding said...

So often in medical care we are made to feel like objects rather than human beings.

I wonder why that is? Didn't these people go into the profession so they could help people? Or do they become immune to the humanity all around them?

Antares Cryptos said...

And a "trial attorney":). I think the weatherman handled it well.

billy pilgrim said...

glad you made it through in one piece.

a friend of mine came out of the hospital with a pacemaker and a defibrillator in his chest. you can see the defibrillator box under his skin. this all happened about 6 months after he retired. ain't life grand.

Nance said...

There must have been a pecking order at work amongst the doctors and their varying opinions.

Television blaring high on the wall with a control one cannot reach--sheer torture! Where I live, doctor's offices keep their waiting room TV's tuned to FOX. I struggle to imagine whether that reflects the doctor's preference or the doctor's assumptions about their patients' preferences. Whichever, it's enough to force me to carry my iPod along on all such visits.

secret agent woman said...

I had a physician friend who counseled me to stay away from hospitals if at all possible. I'm thankful I had a single room for my brief stay and also that my son had the room to himself for the few days after his brain surgery. Made a huge difference.

Kiwi Monster said...

I am so glad you are home! Like I told a friend who recently wound up in the hospital: it was a crap couple of weeks that you missed anyway.

I knew you would get a kick out of that Nancy Grace bit - what a dingbat. You'll like this, too: http://xkcd.com/radiation

Also, by the way, Kara is very funny.

Vagabonde said...

That hospital stay does not sound like much fun. My two hospital stays were when I had my daughters, one in 1969 in San Francisco – the only thing I remember that was eventful was that there was an earthquake that night and my bed kept moving. The other was in Philadelphia in 1972 and the stay was so nice that I did not want to go home – but that was a long time ago and health care is different now. My mother was in a hospital in France and she really enjoyed it. The hospital was in a former castle and the gardens were gorgeous, they would wheel the patients there. Wonder if they have any castle hospitals here? (just kidding.) Listening to Fox would have finished me though.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Mandy The hospital experience was traumatic to be sure, but for the most part I had very thoughtful and empathetic care by some very skilled people, the nurses in particular. Much of the difficulty was in the number of people they were required to care for; in addition they are required to get vital stats, blood draws, etc.

Cryptos Lawyers don't deal in "truth" in the truly scientific sense, they are more interested in prevailing on their point of view.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Billy Modern marvels of technology, some of these devices are. I still don't know if I will end up with a pacemaker, meet with the cardiologist next week. On a scarier note, I've known people who have died for assorted reasons soon after retiring.

Nance It was a odd thing; mine is a personality that very much craves stimulation. Yet in the hospital, I had no interest in TV, reading anything including books or magazines. I spent the lions share of my time with my own thoughts, something I rarely do. It might have been the gravity of my condition, don't know - but the outside world became wholly irrelevant. I came home with some of that ambivalence remaining, I will likely blog about it in the near future.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent A single room would have made a tremendous difference in my comfort. I offered to pay more to secure one but the hospital was literally full.

Kiwi Yes, lost days indeed. But then I am alive and have the opportunity to make the best of the remaining ones I have. Besides there were perks; some nice people came by and brought us a DELICIOUS fish dinner complete with dessert *wink*.

On the radiation; I recall my sister would not use a microwave oven when they first came out because the emit "radiation". I had to explain to her that all radiation, like sunlight for example, is not nuclear bomb quality. I guess she thought her food would be radioactive.

Vagabonde I guess some hospitals can be like a resort of spa, even. I suppose it would depend on the condition of the patient and why they need hospitalization. I understand the medical care in France is quite excellent, I would thin that even the hospital food there would be superior.

KleinsteMotte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KleinsteMotte said...

Oh I forgot to mention that here every bed has a personal TV and one pays to use it. Once prepaid, one gets a set of ear buds and that's the only way sound comes out. That controls the annoying issue of too much TV blair in a room.

The Mother said...

Even doctors run into the same problems in hospitals.

I had to call my md and force him to write an order suspending vitals during the night. I mean, how stupid is that?

And I ended up staying an extra day because of a nursing mistake. I may be an md, but that wasn't my area of expertise and so I didn't realize she had screwed up.

I can only imagine how challenging it is for non medical folks.

In the defense of the craft, however, I must point out that the practice of medicine is SO complex and challenging, that it's nearly impossible for everyone to get it perfectly right every time. Not that the public wants to hear that.

Robert the Skeptic said...

KleinsteMotte That is what they should do, put ear buds on the patients in the non-single rooms. I did the opposite, I got a set of earplugs which pretty much drowned out all the noise pollution.

Dr. Mom Having my vitals taken every 4 hours was totally annoying; on the other hand, my BP and temperature were on a roller coaster for a while, there.

I highly respect the craft, it is both art and science; I had wanted to be a surgeon when I was in grade school so I learned everything I could about anatomy and physiology at an early age. As an adult, I always wanted to be an informed patient and participate in my care - and as a skeptic, I also asked for a lot of explanations. The opposing advice I was getting about the pacemaker, though, I found disturbing. But I came home without one and am fairly happy about that.

kelvin said...

no that was the exact same to litter the hosp[ital health to the lower condition ...that case many were held to patients....thank you...http://www.green4care.com

Murr Brewster said...

I didn't think they kept anyone in the hospital for 23 days. I have nothing to say. The horror cannot be conveyed in a little comment box. Rest up, don't worry about us.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kevin I checked your web site, the concept of recycling used or outdated medical equipment appears practical.

Murr Now only was it allowed, it apparently was mandatory. Recovery time is measured in months.