Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Grateful for Grace......

Being human is a wonderful, scary thing.  Being dog would likely be simpler.  The dog need seems less complex - a sense of belonging and value to the pack, food, and something to make life interesting.  Hmmm... maybe more in common there than I thought.  But I digress.

We entered the hall of human frailty this morning.  Hospitals are like that, caring for the frail.  But today was a long exercise in coping with the frailty and limitations of the health care providers.

We arrived promptly at 6:30 AM.  The first sign I had that it was going to be an interesting day was noting that my mom's name was not on the printed list of people having procedures.  It was scribbled at the bottom.  The clerk scolded us a little for not preregistering.  Odd, since I distinctly remember calling registration yesterday right before work started at 8 AM.  The correct information was located and we were sent to the short stay unit and assigned a room.

Old people move slow.  So rather than waiting for someone to arrive and tell me to get her in the hospital gown, I just went ahead and got her ready.  One blanket wasn't enough for her, so I looked for someone to get me another.  Since I found the linen closet long before I could spot an aid or nurse I helped myself and added a couple of layers for her. 

Back in the room I continued the conversation we had been having since about 5:15 AM:  "Why am I here again?"  To have your pacemaker fixed.  "Why does it need to be fixed?"  One of the wires broke.  "Are they going to put me to sleep first?"  Only if you let them put your IV in without fighting.  The three questions of the day, rinse, repeat.  Again and again and again.

At 7:30 we had our first visit from any staff.  It seems that no orders had been written, so no one knew quite what to do with her.  So while one nurse placed an IV in her right hand, received new orders and then had to switch it her LEFT hand, another nurse went over her medications with me.  She had mom's medication list in her hand and kept asking, "Is she still taking _____?  Did she take it this morning?" even after I pointed out that the medication list was current and clearly marked as to what meds were to be taken at what time.  When the time came at last for them to wheel her off into the OR, they realized that they had no signed consent for the procedure.  I got to walk with her stretcher to discuss consent with the cardiologist.  This was the first time that she was so clearly confused that they did not offer to let her sign for herself.  They'd heard all three of the questions of the day at least twice each.

In the waiting area I caught up on letters and thank-you notes (seventeen of them - and you all know that when I write, I WRITE).

The cardiologist came out, told me everything had gone well.  He managed to thread an extra wire to the heart by following the old wire.  The non-functioning wire was left in place since it was fairly firmly attached to her heart.  He then went on to sheepishly inform me that he had stuck himself with a needle contaminated with my Mom's blood, so... would I mind telling him if he had anything to be concerned about??  LOLOL oh my goodness.  Well, most of my Mom's wild and crazy days were pre-HIV, but feel free to run whatever tests you need to reassure yourself that you'll be okay.  I am absolutely certain that confessing that problem to me, a fellow physician, was the most embarrassing thing he's had to do in a LONG time. The last time he did that, he told me, was in the 1980's.

Mom was transferred to a room upstairs for observation, a planned admission.  When she arrived she wanted to eat and drink but there were......no orders.  The nurse came in to check her in:  "Is she still taking ______?  Did she take it this morning?"  Seriously?  Are you using the same computer program as the nurse downstairs?  I had to leave to run errands with Curlygirl.  I hope they eventually fed her.

God is full of grace.  In our humanness, He still works.  Despite the chaos and general disorganization (which is, after all, only a reflection of who we all are inside), Mom received the care she needed at the time she needed it. I wouldn't have the courage to go to work each day if I didn't trust that God could overcome my human weakness and use me to care for people despite myself.

Those of you pray, ask God to bless your doctors and nurses with grace.

PS  I have had two accidental needle sticks.  One was with a clean needle - I simply needed to reglove and start over.  One was when I was a student, in the heart of the early AIDS epidemic.  The surgeon actually stitched THROUGH my finger.  Yeah, that was a painful boo-boo.  Stuff, as they say, happens.  And by God's grace neither I nor my Mom's cardiologist were seriously injured - in those days there were no anti-AIDS medications available to treat needle stick injuries.

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