Look Out for Yourself

I’ll be the first to tell anyone, I had some amazing nurses and great assistants during my Hospital stay. Their care got me through my stay. I told the patient advocate as much in person, in my customer service survey, and in writing. My Doctors, for the most part, were pretty good. Not nearly as good as my nurses, but not bad. I mean, they’re only doctors after all, right? Now the other part, eh… not so much. They were the Surgical Harpies as I (fondly?) refer to them.

As I’ve alluded to before, after my surgery I ended up with an incision that is roughly 10″ or so long starting just above my belly button. During my time in the hospital, it got infected. Enter the Surgical Harpies. A Surgeon, who we will refer to as Dr. … C and her assistant came in to check it out and make things right.

Making things right included:

  • Taking out some of the staples
  • Opening up a hole roughly the size of a quarter in my abdomen
  • Expressing puss and other nastiness from incision
  • Identifying that from the hole, the wound “tunneled” roughly 4″ up and 1 1/2″ down from the hole. The hole itself was almost an inch deep
  • Then packed the whole thing with gauze

The Harpies flitted away to wherever Harpies go. Hades. It’s Hades if my Greek Mythology knowledge check is correct. If you read that and thought to yourself, that sounds like it really hurt. You’d be wrong. It really, really hurt. On a scale of 1-10, it was a Super Saiyan level of pain there. The part that endeared the Harpies to my heart wasn’t when they ignored my pleas for pain medicine, but when the assistant threw a package of wipes on my chest and told me to “use these to clean yourself up” before they left.

Now, the packing of my wound needed to be changed twice a day. Fortunately, I had a skilled and caring nursing staff that took care of that. Until the Harpies returned a couple of days later. See, they insisted on repacking the wound that my nurse had packed just three hours earlier. While I told them to stop, and begged for my pain medicine, then begged for them to stop so my nurse who was standing right there could give me said medicine; they continued. They pushed on, did a half assed job and finished with a “See, we’re done.” Before galloping off to… Hades I think is what we determined.

At that point, I’ll admit it. I was pissed. I grabbed the phone and tried to call the Patient Advocate. I say tried, but my nurse gave me the belated pain medicine and they hooked me up with some primo stuff. No idea what the street value on it was, but I sure wasn’t seeing straight. To give you an idea of just how angry I was. Normally, the shot of pain medicine I got was enough to take me on a nice long trip to Nap Land. Not today. I was wide awake and angry.

Shortly, after all this went down my Hospitalist came in and I regaled her with the tale of what had happened in the morning. She was mortified and paged the Harpies and the Hospital Patient Advocate. Amazingly, the Surgical Harpies were slow to answer their page. As I told my wife, they were dodging me. It was a good while after lunch before Dr. C showed up.

The part of this that I regret is, some of my coworkers had stopped by. We were having a really good time talking and laughing, just hanging out. When the Harpies decided to grace us with their presence, my friends had to take off. I think my exact words were, “I’m sorry, guys. There is something I have to take care of.”

I chaired the meeting with my Mom, Wife, Day Nurse, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate and Dr. C in attendance. I started off fairly nonchalantly thanking everyone for coming. From the start I stated the reason I asked everyone to attend was so we could “discuss the completely unacceptable way I had been treated as a patient at the hands of Dr. C and her assistant.” When Dr. C started to say something, I cut her off stating that she “misunderstood her role in this meeting.” and that “her input was not required.” I was direct and blunt; channeled my inner inspector when the inspection goes straight down the toilet and the site tries to argue that their complete lack of execution is in some way admirable behavior. I had none of it. I did stipulate that her assistant was not to be allowed into my room again during my stay. Should she come in, I would notify security. Dr. C tried to play the “I’m stupid” card, and say that she didn’t understand what was wrong. So, when I described what happened that morning as examples of unacceptable behavior, the Hospitalist asked my Nurse if she was present for any of this. She confirmed what happened. Now, my wife claims that I went too far when I informed Dr. C that “if it ever happened again, I would snap her finger like a twig.” Here’s the thing. She tried to use the “I didn’t know” defense and I wanted to make sure she understood what “unacceptable behavior” meant, and the consequences of those actions. Hey, I saw Doctor Strange, broken fingers are bad for surgeons. Like, really bad.

I’m not one to advocate violence. In talking with my night nurse that evening, the Surgical Harpies had been mistreating every patient on the floor. No one else called them on it. Somehow in their minds, this was an appropriate way to treat another human being; a person under their care.

Why did I decide of all the things that occurred during my stay, this was something to share? It’s to tell you this. You are your own best advocate. Not your nurse. Not the Patient Advocate. Not even another Doctor. No one else. Only you are the best suited to speak on your behalf. Well, and stop forest fires. If you aren’t going to speak up, then you must be OK with how things are going. I’m sure that if I hadn’t had that direct and blunt conversation, the Surgical Harpies would continue their reign of terror on that floor. If you’re being mistreated, its up to you to say something. You don’t have to go it alone,  but if you desire change … start with the man in the mirror, or woman as the case may be.

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