Get well soon.

A quick recap. Mom ended up back in the hospital unexpectedly due to a giant blood clot in her “bad” leg (the one recently broken). We are SO lucky it was found (purely by chance) — clots often cause fatal pulmonary embolisms (a piece of the clot breaks off, travels to the lungs, and kills you). She was never in any pain, has been resting comfortably in the hospital with her blood-thinning cocktail, and should come home soon.

This post is really about what it took to get her to this point. When her clot was discovered during an exam at the hospital for another issue, the technicians and docs knew she had to be admitted immediately. We were already at the hospital, so this should have been easy, right? Right.

  • First, knowing what we were in for at “big-city hospital,” my sister and I wanted to take her ourselves to our local hospital — part of the same hospital system as “big-city hospital,” but closer to home, quieter, and less crazed. But no, the doc nixed that idea, saying it would be much faster and better to admit her immediately through the emergency department (ED) so she could get immediate blood thinners. Time was of the essence. We shouldn’t fool around with moving her. (And we were clearly insane for even thinking of that.)
  • Anyhoo…45 minutes later…they finally managed to get someone there with a wheelchair to take her up one floor to the ED (we were just about to get one ourselves and take her).
  • The ED was a zoo — a Friday morning and it looked like the set of ER during one of their many disaster-du-jour episodes. Long story short — my mom laid on a gurney in the hall for 5-1/2 hours. It was 2 hours before she got the oh-so-essential blood thinner shot. Two hours! We could have been to our local hospital in 15 minutes and she could have been in a ROOM within 2 hours. She ate her box lunch on the gurney in the hall, with chaos all around.
  • Once she got into a room, it took 2 more hours for her “orders” to make it up the 9 floors from the ED to her floor, via computer. We could have carried the orders up in the elevator in 5 minutes. So, this meant she was not allowed any food or drink until the floor nurse knew what was what. By then, the cafeteria was closed, so she had another box lunch for dinner.
  • Throughout the course of our 9 or so hours before she made it into her room, we answered the same questions about her medical history, prescriptions, and recent health situation at least 4 times to 4 different people. And then we did it all again for the floor nurse, after the “orders” finally came. The same information 5 times! How is this even effective or possible in today’s “modern” health care system? Whatever happened to having one chart that stays with the patient with all the info on it? It was mystifying to me and still is. (Not to mention she had been to this hospital just a few months ago for the original surgery on her ankle, and last year for another surgery. They freakin’ should know her medical history — they created a lot of it!)

I write this knowing that I live in Pittsburgh — one of the top cities for medical care in the country. As a friend pointed out, imagine if we lived in one of those other cities?! Imagine indeed.

I know her wait for a room was not because there were no beds available — clearly the hospital is full of empty beds. The problem is having no one to staff those beds and oversee her care. I get it; there’s a nursing shortage and hospitals are understaffed. (Maybe they would have more time if they didn’t have to take the same information from every patient 5 times.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers, only many questions. We pay exorbitant costs for health care. We have technology and resources that are the envy of the world. We have dedicated professionals. We just can’t seem to bring them all together to work efficiently. 

Still, the system does its job for the most part — it saves lives. Maybe the rest just doesn’t matter? Hard to accept that thinking, but at this point, it’s all I have.

Getting out of the hospital is a lot like resigning from a book club.
You’re not out of it until the computer says you’re out of it.
                                                                   ~ Erma Bombeck


  1. robbie said,

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    A large part of the problem is the hospital doesn’t consider the patient (your Mother) as its customer. Because most patients don’t directly pay for medical services, the medical providers don’t really give a damn about how they treat you. The patient is just another number. Imagine the great service you would receive if the patient had to write a check after services were provided. I bet there would be more concern, efficiency, and care given the patient!

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Yes, a lot of the work I’ve seen being done in health care is about customer service, but really, I don’t know how much it matters yet. Yes I can choose which hospital to go to sometimes (I tried to this time, but it didn’t work), but lots of times you’re just stuck with what’s closest or where they can handle your case. Would be interesting if the insurance company said “Here’s $10,000 to spend on your surgery — you won’t get any more, so you figure out how and where best to spend it.”

  3. barbie said,

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Don’t forget she was just there for follow up surgery on the 28th of May for goodness sake!

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