American Health Care

May 27, 2008, 10:30 am; posted by
Filed under Articles, Connie, Featured  | No Comments

Which of these scenarios was worst?

1– It’s 2 am in a strange large city, and I\’m with my elderly uncle, serving as his health care proxy. With us is his sister, my mother (also elderly), with whom he lives. We\’ve been in the ER for 7 hours. He has fallen and broken three ribs, one of the most painful injuries there is.

In walks a young resident; earlier he rudely told me that hospital policy only allows one visitor per patient. I confidently explained that security had bent that rule for us, only to be sarcastically told to leave immediately.

I look around for my mother and she has fled, using her terrible navigational skills to go hide, who-knows-where. I leave the doctor with a few words, and then go looking for her…


2– 1:35 pm: we\’re still in the ER. I have buzzed the nurse three times. My uncle needs his morphine shot, but five minutes after my first buzz — which was almost an hour ago — Amy began discharging a patient. Paperwork takes time.

After 15 minutes, I asked her to come and give her attention as he was in enormous pain. That was my job. That was her job.

30 minutes later, she came in and asked what she could do. She spent five minutes arguing with me, then found his paperwork, and determined his pain shot had been due at 10 am. He hadn\’t had one since 8 am. She did paperwork for 45 minutes, while he went without pain relief for six hours.


3– After 21 hours, my uncle finally gets a bed upstairs. It takes a few hours to get a PCA device hooked up so that he can get morphine on demand. His new nurse comes in and notices that he\’s slumped down in his bed, and decides he needs to be moved up or he won\’t be able to breathe well. As they begin, he is in such agony that he nearly passes out.

When he\’s finished, she wants him to do some deep breathing to help with his pain; I pass him his pain button. She snaps at me to not interfere, arguing that it\’s better for him to use it afterwards to calm down. Well, somebody better get me one then, because that’s not what pain relief is for. It\’s to relieve PAIN!!!

We have a serious talk about what she had just put him through, and to my surprise, she agreed and apologized, saying it won\’t happen again. In the meantime, my uncle was nearly in shock; by then, the pain relief couldn\’t even begin to help him.


Unfortunately, all three of these things happened to us within 24 hours, and they were equally horrific. This is the state of health care today. Doctors and nurses at the hospital treat the elderly like just another job — a check box on a To-Do list, rather than people who are loved and cherished, who mean the world to someone.

These “professionals” had no compassion; they were punching in and getting through the day. If I was in their way, they made sure I knew about it. I can\’t remember the last time I had a dispute with someone, much less an argument. But here I had three in one day. Fortunately, this hospital had a patient advocate, to whom I could explain what went on, and ask for help and action about these and other things that happened.

But what about those patients without family, or the ones too weak to speak up, who must endure these indignities every day? Do they just suffer quietly?

Or do they just die?


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