When Healthcare Goes Bad!
Hospitals, Physicians and Nurses…oh my!!!!
I am just now beginning to recuperate after having spent the past two weeks at University Hospital in San Antonio. For anyone who has ever been treated in, and complained about, the hospitals in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire…DON’T!!!
On Wednesday, November 4th, my dad was in a pretty serious motorcycle accident. He is a 73 year old man who was out for a leisurely ride, on his Ducati, with a friend. And yes, before you begin to form the picture in your head, I said 73 and Ducati…he’s a young (albeit broken now) 73!
Apparently, he somehow lost control of his bike and slid off of the road. His left foot stopped when it hit a rock, but his leg didn’t. Therefore, he is missing a 2-3 inch chunk of bone in his left leg.
For beginners, the accident occurred somewhere between noon and one in the afternoon. He was transported, by helicopter, from Rock Springs, Texas to San Antonio. Nobody ever called my mother. She didn’t find out until early that evening what had happened, and that was only because she, along with many friends from Medina, began to make phone calls in order to find him. I only mention this part because when we finally retrieved his belongings from the ER, he was carrying everything with him, including wallet and cell phone. There is no logical reason why the hospital never tried to contact her.
I flew into San Antonio the very next morning and arrived at 12:30 in the afternoon. At this point mom was pretty upset. I had yet to find out what the hospital had put her through the prior night. Dad was in ICU and pretty much out of it. They had already operated on him once and he was being pumped with morphine.
On the ride back to Medina that night, mom began to relay the horrific way she had been treated the night before.
I know this for a fact because I was the one who called…nobody in the ER was passing on any information to my mother while she sat in the waiting for hours. I called the hospital and asked what was going on, they only told me what they were allowed to tell me, but it was still more information than mom had received. I called her back to tell her that the doctors were still operating.
At one point she was sent to wait on a specific floor, only to find out from a security guard that she had been sent to the Lockdown section of the hospital. She was sitting all alone in an area where they kept the criminals.
She was then directed to wait in another area, and it wasn’t until three in the morning that she found out (because she asked a janitor) that dad was out of the OR and in ICU. Nobody had ever come for her.
We spent the next couple of days by his side waiting to find out what they were going to do about the leg. We had been told, initially, that they might not be able to save the leg. At one point, we were told (by morphine induced dad) that he would have the choice of having the leg removed and being fitted with a prosthetic, or having 23 (kind of a random number) surgeries to rebuild the leg. Mom was horrified. Of course, we still hadn’t spoken with a doctor yet. The only thing we were going by was what loopy dad was saying and a hand drawn diagram of what they were proposing to do.
We finally had the chance to talk to an Orthopedic Surgeon on Sunday, November 8th, and were told that they were going to save the leg. They were planning to irrigate one more time, then on Wednesday, November 11th, both the Orthopedic and the Plastic teams were going to spend the whole day repairing the leg.
Mom and I both asked repeatedly if this was going to be the final surgery…we still had that number 23 going through our heads! We were reassured that they would be all done on Wednesday. It wasn’t until the day before surgery that we ran into that same surgeon and found out he was a resident at the hospital. It didn’t matter to us at the time because he was part of the team.
The surgery took about ten hours and we were in the waiting room for quite some time until we contacted the OR Nurses’ station and told them we were going to be staying at a nearby hotel. Although we never met any of them, I would have to say that the OR Nurses were by far the most efficient staff members of that entire hospital. They kept us informed throughout the whole operation.
Dad was then moved to ICU. That is when we found out, from a resident Plastic Surgeon, that this was just the beginning of what will be a 2-3 month wait before they could even begin the complete reconstruction of the leg. They have to wait to see if the muscle, veins and arteries that they moved, from his stomach to his leg, are going to take before they can begin the Orthopedic part of the reconstruction. This means that dad has to keep his leg elevated, above his heart, for the next couple of months.
Needless to say when we heard this news on Saturday, November 14th, we were pretty frustrated. We were then given our Case Manager’s name and told that she was going to meet with us on Monday to go over everything in detail.
In the meantime mom and I were doing everything we could to make sure dad was comfortable. We were also doing our best not to burst into laughter when he was relaying his stories about the doctors having their lunch, in front of him, at a tiki bar on the beach…while he was starving and waiting for them to operate. Morphine…GOOD STUFF! He was also insisting that mom find out who the Federal Agents were that were trying to take over the hospital, because he didn’t want to have to pay both the hospital and the government for all of these procedures.
He was sweating profusely when we got back to his room that day, . Mom was wiping him down with paper towels when we noticed his oxygen wasn’t attached. At the same time, he was complaining about how badly his leg hurt. Mom found his pain pump wrapped around the monitors that had been moved away from his bed. I asked the Nurse if there was a reason why they had taken away his oxygen and pain pump. Her response, without an apology, was “Oh, I forgot!” HUH???? I could’ve sworn ICU stood for Intensive Care Unit…stupid me!
So, we excitedly drove back to the hospital Monday morning, November 16th. We were finally going to get some answers to the hundreds questions we had been asking people for well over a week. It was 9:30 in the morning and we went directly to the Nurses’ station on his floor and asked to see the Case Manager. We were told that she had been paged, but must be in a meeting because she was not answering.
While we were visiting dad I walked back out there at least two more times…still no answer. Then, a couple of hours later, mom went back out to the desk and asked again. She was then told, point blank “She’s on vacation this week.” No other explanation - no attempt to offer any help…just “She’s on vacation!” Needless to say…MOM LOST IT!
We had to take an elevator from the seventh floor, down to the first, storm into the Administrative Offices, and literally throw a temper tantrum, to get someone to talk to us. We are talking twelve days after he had been admitted to this place, and finally someone sat down with us.
At that point we had people jumping through hoops, for just a brief period of time, trying to get us the answers we needed. But that was very short lived.
Another Case Manager had been assigned, one who was either perturbed by the fact that we threw our little hissy fits, or she just had a lot of attitude. Nevertheless, she was not very helpful, and we were right back at square one, where we couldn’t get a straight answer (or the same answer twice) from anyone in that hospital.
Without going into too many details, if my parents were the “Sue-happy” type of people, that hospital would have a huge lawsuit on their hands, but they are not. However, I am appalled at the way the staff in that hospital treated my parents. A hospital is the last place in the world where you should feel like you are putting the staff out of their way by asking for help…THAT IS THEIR JOB!
So now, dad gets to spend (at least) the next few weeks in a rehab in Bandera, Texas, just hoping and praying that nothing goes wrong with the new flap in his leg. And if all goes well there, he gets to start all over with the surgery process in another 2-3 months.