Pat Drummond :: life & technology

October 21, 2011

Hospitals are strange places

I've spent way too much time visiting hospitals lately. Hospitals are good places to stay out of -- you knew that right? After visiting the skipper every day during two hospitalizations, I came home exhausted every night. A few reasons may sound silly - or not.

Why are there so many beeps and other electronic noise in hospital wards? I look around and no one else even notices. The staff must have filters in their ears (one hopes) to hear the important ones. When the skipper's IV pump kept stopping, I finally hit the start button myself. Then I restarted the pump of the other patient in the room. Are they all defective? Or just the people installing the shunt? Constant beeping rubs my nerves totally raw. I guess other people just get cranky and don't know why.

Press the red call button and someone may come in 5-10 minutes. So I learned how to help the skipper with the simple needs (you know). As soon as he was mobile, I had learned how to unplug the monitors and taught him how to push the IV in front of him. Simple stuff but it meant he could use the john instead of a pee bottle and bed pan. Small things mean a lot.

Why does the staff talk so loudly to patients - they are ill, not deaf! How about "DID YOU HAVE A BOWEL MOVEMENT TODAY?" for the entire ward to hear. If you sit around, you can listen to the most personal information being talked about in lower but still pretty loud tones.

Patients have to forego all personal dignity. Nurses are usually very patient and pleasant to sick people, but really, who really likes to have their ass on view, to see other people's asses, have a stranger help them pee, and as for bed pans...

The really scary problem is there are not enough staff especially at night to deal with patients in recovery who are not "lucid". The nurse called me at home at 10:30 pm as I was going to sleep because the skipper had torn out his IV when he woke up agitated. Hey guys, he didn't know he was in a hospital and just wanted OUT - I would react the same way. I was given 3 choices to keep him from hurting himself - come in myself, authorize restraints, or hire an outside agency. So I hired an agency ($200 for 8 hours) to sit with him and make sure he didn't get out of bed. In the end they used drugs, so I may as well have chosen restraints. During the day, they also used sedatives and a chair/tray restraint even if I was there. If he was in bed they turned on a bed alarm that made an awful noise if he leaned on the bed side rail. I set it off several times before I learned what it was. Thank god he started to recover and ended the worry and cost. I hadn't slept much one night so went home in the afternoon, a 90 minutes round trip, for an hour nap. As I arrived home, and friends down the street were just finishing cutting our grass. I was so tired, grateful and surprised, I nearly burst into tears.

The skipper thought at one point he was in prison. Even prisoners have something to do, so interesting comparison. The regular wards have TVs to rent with 32 channels - can you get hockey using that? A brochure listed their absurd rates, but not how to pay! Hospital staff didn't know. Just as I was leaving, a person came in to disconnect the TV and asked if we wanted TV service. So I paid for 4 days. A day later, they moved him to the 'obs' ward - with no TV at all. The waiting room had a broken TV. So no hockey for the skipper. Airlines recognize you can keep people happy by providing movies, music, and food. Wouldn't hospital staff would have an easier time if they provided some distractions for restless patients? As soon as he was mobile, he wandered all over the hospital just to see if he could - no problem.

I found out by accident that you can arrange Wi-Fi for a patient at this particular campus of the hospital. So brought in the laptop and it took 20 entire minutes to connect - and I'm a computer geek. Sheesh. A little complicated for someone who just had brain surgery for g*d sake. I haven't seen such a crappy Wi-Fi setup in years. Plus too slow to watch a movie. Next day I brought the skipper a radio - he was not happy. I finally sprung him back home a day early so he got to watch our team get wiped in glorious high def. The good news is he's back in his own bed, where he doesn't have a team waking him at 6 am and nurses checking him every hour. I get to do that now. Dear God, please let the next scan be good.

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Friends are Vitamin F

Our new friends have proven how simple it is to make someone's life easier. The skipper has been in hospital twice and had surgery, so the last month or so has been a stressful time. After driving to the city every day to be with him, I was a little sleep-deprived and feeling sick so I returned home for a nap one afternoon (90 minute round trip). I found my neighbours Nancy and Steve just finishing mowing our grass! Nancy said, you know how people always ask what they can do to help. Well, she knew I was worried about how much time the lawn takes - so they just came over and did it with 2 mowers. I nearly burst out crying right in the driveway. They did it again a few weeks later and this week they mulched the leaves. A matched pair of angels.

Next time I know someone who is going through something like this, I'm going to invite them for meals, walk or feed the dog -- or even cut their grass. I will try to remember NOT to ask 'what can I do'? Like many people, I just couldn't seem to ask for help. It's more effective to offer to do specific chores that you know they need to do, but may not have time or energy for.

Dr. Oz calls them Vitamins F (for Friends) and friends are essential to our well being. How true.

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