Views from a Hospital Room by Micki Peluso

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Personality traits differ significantly among hospital patients, Physicians and caretakers, which can include: sympathy/aloofness, empathy/impatience, caring/apathy, patience and intolerance. Mistakes and miracles occur almost on an equal basis; patients, who should live, die and those who should have died live. Hospitals are buzzing hives of contradictions.

My bed is one of four in a well-lit room with large windows displaying the dull gray tones of a broad flat roof from the floor below. It’s a Cardiac Care Center (CCU), so all of us are hooked up to monitors, which I find comforting. This is not my first time here, yet I note changes since my last visit. Maybe my “rate our performance” opinion letters were actually read.

The nurses are exceptionally pleasant, insisting that we ring the buzzer if we need them — that is not usually the case. The Personal Care Attendants (PCA) are surprisingly young with as many men as women. They smile, ask about our lives, our comfort and show genuine warmth and caring.” Ryan,” a very young handsome man works tirelessly as a nurse’s assistant. His wide smile can’t help but make patients smile back — a beatific smile. He offers to help bathe us, but I pass. He’s about the age of my grandsons and I really can’t handle that, preferring the female PCAs who are no less enthusiastic in doing their jobs. Ryan will soon graduate as a nurse.

Another PCA, working years to support his family, decides it’s time to make a career move into nursing. He’s a no-nonsense guy in his late 30’s, and while he doesn’t radiate joy in his work, his caring is deeply sincere and conscientious. One young man, looking like a teenage football player, sits patiently feeding pureed food to a demented old woman for a solid hour, until her tray is empty. He never sighs with impatience or abruptness, but handles her as a mother would tend her young child. The woman, who can only live in the moment, won’t remember this selfless act but can, in the now, as it unfolds. I think to myself that this young man is a true angel.

Judith, once a high–income professional, upon retiring, grew bored and chose to give herself to others in the lowly occupation of hospital cleanliness maintenance. A beautiful woman, she literally races from room to room, scrubbing, mopping, and disinfecting, all the while singing cheerful songs. Her face beams with happiness while disbursing gems of wisdom and optimism to all of us. I give her a signed copy of my book and she treasures it like gold. I feel my own discomfort receding just being in her presence.

One of my roommates is discharged late at night and I am annoyed when a maintenance man comes in, turning on all the bright lights, to clean and prepare the bed for an incoming patient. Then as I watch him diligently scrub every section of the last patient’s area, humming while he works, I realized that he likes his job and we talk as he works.

Once while speaking to one of my nurses, she tells me how she lost her husband and then her home and possessions during Super Storm Sandy the year before. We were discussing my book, which I always keep on my nightstand. I ask her how she could be so happy and smiling all the time.” Life is full of losses,” she says.” I’ve learned to accept that and move forward with my life.” Her attitude inspires me to rethink my own attitudes toward loss, pain and suffering.

Hospitals are far from perfect. The downside for me is a botched simple pacemaker battery change, which leads to five more surgeries and six months in and out of the hospital. A boy scout with a manual could have done a better job. Statistics report that approximately 400,000 deaths occur each year in hospitals, due to Doctor/nurse error or negligence, and three of every 25 patients contact a potentially, deadly infections. I hold the dubious honor of contracting both a UTI (urinary tract infection) and a VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterititus) intestinal infection. It is a humiliating experience as the “Swab Team” burst into my room in Haz-med uniforms, whisking me off to isolation. I did not have the infection but colonized it, being contagious only to a small percentage of patients with a gene defect.

There are also times when I have to tell a new and experienced nurse that he needs more practice putting in IV needles. Another time, one has to be reminded to use gloves before touching me. One day after getting no sleep from the pain, I take a late morning nap. My new roommate is suddenly surrounded by doctors as her monitors bleep and flash in alarm. The nurses assumed she is sleeping when in fact she stopped breathing and nearly dies. Since her heart rate is monitored that should not have happened. Mere coincidence causes her doctor to be visiting at that exact moment. Her life is saved.

There is much more to tell but to sum it up, while hospitality has improved dramatically, there is still much to be done for the protection of patients from errors in hospital-contracted diseases. Don’t even ask about hospital food. Being on a cardiac, salt free diet, I have the kitchen manager bought to me to discuss the salt content of his meals, which is far above my allowance; and still have to have my meals made and brought in from home. One food server tells me that no matter what I mark on my menu, all patients get the same thing. I believe him. There’s a possibility I might not be allowed back to this institution. My last opinion poll on hospital overall performance might ensure that. And that’s okay with me.

 

Bio: 

Micki Peluso is the author of the widely acclaimed memoir …And The Whippoorwill Sang. She also writes humor and  occasional pieces about life. You can find her book at http://www.amazon.com/Whippoorwill-Sang-Micki-Peluso/dp/1466497076/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347680072&sr=1-1&keywords=Micki+Peluso and join her on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/811377-micki-peluso?utm_medium=email&utm_source=follower

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15 thoughts on “Views from a Hospital Room by Micki Peluso

  1. Kenneth Weene

    I have always figured the bet way to stay healthy is to avoid too much contact with medical facilities. My last “incarceration” for gallbladder surgery went relatively easily, but I did ask somebody to stay in the room the first few hours to remind staff to wash their hands, etc. My wife, who also had a gallbladder problem at a different hospital, was nearly killed off. One of the biggest problems was getting doctors to listen to her. After all, they were the doctors and knew better. So another rule of thumb, be sure you have a doc who can listen.

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  2. Monica Brinkman

    I must agree with Ken on finding the right physician who will actually listen to what you are saying. That is the first step. The second being communication. We must take responsibility in telling our care-givers our personal wishes. Some people believe 100% on medication to solve their physical ailments and conditions, while others opt for a more natural route. It is up to you to hold firm in your own wishes. It is your body, it is your health.

    Let’s face it, we have many different types of people who are care-givers and as people, we make mistakes and sometimes have huge triumphs. I recall my father saying “Doctors bury their mistakes”. At the time I thought that a rather harsh statement to make, but on reflection, find it to be quite honest. These professionals in healthcare do what they are able under strict rules and regulations. I have found most to be kind, caring and serving of their patients. But they are human.

    Thank you Miki for a wonderful article.

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  3. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Micki, Thanks for that excellent piece sharing your experiences with healthcare. At best, being a patient can be a challenge. With hospitals short staffed, always looking at the “bottom line”, and insurance companies dictating the length of say for a particular diagnostic code, the result is one of uncertainly. Unfortunately, the patient is the one who ultimately pays the price for all the bureaucratic “red tape”.

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  4. Micki Peluso

    Thanks Ken, Monica and Cynthia for your comments. This botched surgery resulted in four more and it’s taking a year to recover. Worse, the deadly errors made from previous hospitals caused the circumstances which led to this experience, I think letting patients out as soon as possible, while possibly dangerous, is more likely to protect them from coming out with more than they went into the hospital with. I’ve lost many friends from infections contracted in hospitals and nursing homes and that is unacceptable and something that can be avoided with proper procedural care.

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  5. John B. Rosenman

    Yes, I agree. Micki, this is a wonderful article. You recognize kind, caring, and competent caregivers, but boy, there certainly are the other kind, bungling, incompetent doctors who have all the answers and don’t listen. What stays with me perhaps the most is you having multiple surgeries and saying that a boy scout with a manual could have done a better job. I will do my earnest best never to be a patient in a hospital again. If I have a twinge or worse, I will wait it out or have my wife rub it away. I don’t like hospitals. Don’t like them. Don’t.

    Yet you do need doctors and medicine. Some are good, especially if they are earnest, somewhat humble, and listen to you. As I made plain in my first blog, if I hadn’t found the right doctor eventually, I would be dead.

    Micki, I’m glad you’re doing better, and I wish you all the best. Here’s hoping you stay out of hospitals.

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  6. Trish Jackson

    I agree with Ken — stay away from hospitals if you can, but I realize it’s not always possible and in that case it is really important to have someone you can trust to stay with you and make certain the hospital staff are doing their job properly. Thank you for addressing this very important issue.

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  7. Micki Peluso

    John,you are so right. I’ve had doctors that saved my children from death and myself, but I’ve also had doctors that were the best in their field and through arrogance and overconfidense, rather than incomptence actually killed me. I just don’t happen to die easily but it’s not for lack of doctors trying their best to kill me.

    Trish you are so right about having people you trust with you. My husband and 3 daughters were there and even then, a simple procedure like changing a battery in a pacemaker was botched so badly that it too four more surgeries, including plastic surgery to correct their folly. And do it in one of the top five hospitals in NYC no less. They say that the molecules in the body take a whole year to fully recover from the shcok of even simple surgery and I believe it since it’s been a year and I’m still not fully recovered.

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  8. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Hello Micki,

    A well written and shared account of your health issues many of us have shared for many years.
    I agree with Ken-and my older brother-stay out of hospitals if you care about your own life.

    Sadly it is not only the hospitals that make grievous errors but doctors from the general practice to surgeons. I would hate to see those statics but I’m sure they would be staggering. Happily the day to day care with RN’s is usually the better part of hospitals if you are lucky enough to find the ones in it because they love their work and care about the patients.

    Thank you for sharing this story.

    Mamie

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  9. Martha Love

    Wonderful memoir story, Micki! I love the way you centered on the people in your hospital experience and thus made it a more human experience for yourself. It seemed that you found a way to enjoy that part of the hospital stay, at least. I imagine your superior attitude improved your immune system and helped you get through it medically as well as keeping you entertained. Thank you for also entertaining us.

    Yes, hospitals are now understaffed and over crowded with patients, but one thing is very much the same as it always have been— and that is that it is very important to have someone there who is close to you to keep a check on everything and keep up with what is going on. We have discovered members of our family staying in the hospital to be given the wrong medicine, have unhooked IV’s, and even have meals skipped being brought them. I think, Micki, you have something there in that being a nice friendly patient might also help staff to always remember you at supper time!

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  10. Bryan Murphy

    What an Odyssey, Micki! Thank goodness you have survived. As a European, I wonder whether things are better in my home country, England, or my adopted country, Italy, where health treatment is seen as a right rather than a commodity.

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  11. Linda Hales

    So much to learn here yet each hospital does have its strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, most patients do not suffer unnecessarily but there are some horror stories to be told as well. So happy you are looking on the bright side of it and moving forward. It’s hard to believe that a year has already gone by. Goes to show, they can’t keep a strong woman down.

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  12. Micki Peluso

    Thanks Rosemary for your thoughts. I know you have spent some bad times in hospitals too.

    T.R., that is so typical. My hospital “chef’ told me all the bread was freshly baked, then I got mine in a sealed, prepared package, and their soup was home made—except it came from cans. They never actually lie. lol

    Martha, you’re so right. I was always having to tell them why I couldn’t take their pain meds when my chart should have told them heart patients can’t take most pain meds.

    Bryan, I’ve heard that before–that medical care is not only more advanced but better in all ways in Canada and most of Europe. I know there’s room for improvement here for sure.

    Linda, you’re right but 400,000 deaths a year is still unacceptable. Now they put a big mark on the part they are operating on. One would think their doctor would know that without a mark.

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    1. Linda Hales

      That is a staggering number Micki! Canada has had some nightmares as well but fortunately, the profession quickly mitigated by improving their practices, usually resulting from an inquest with recommendations. I recall when I had cancer surgery in 1994, the surgeon himself queried me as to what was being operated on, where it was located (left or right) and marked the area – all just outside of the operating room door. There were at least 2 nurses present. Chances of doing the wrong surgery were as minimal as possible. Nothing is perfect anywhere but I find it so disheartening that a great country such as the USA is running so far behind in areas of health, education and welfare.

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  13. Micki Peluso

    Yes, Linda, it is a shame and an outrage as there is no excuse or reason for this to be happening so often. Nursing homes are even worse, nearly guaranteeing that your loved one will catch fatal diseases such as sepsis from the poor standards and lack of care.

    Reply

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