It’s that time of year again. The days are growing shorter, the weather colder. Too cold for the moment.
It seems winter’s breath has arrived early this year.
Time when we’re forced indoors. To hibernate. Or cook stews, perhaps.
This is also the time of year when I start thinking about getting off my ass and finishing that book I started many years ago.
A stew of its own . . .
You see, I had to put it on hold because I was writing about controversial stuff. Stuff that could have gotten me fired from my then position, as a practicing nurse, and I was already having enough trouble with employers in the medical field.
I filed that writing away, packed my health care bags, and went to law school.
Many people have asked me why I made the switch. They found this to be a pretty dramatic change in direction, from one of the most trusted professions to one of the least.
When asked, I always jokingly reply that, “I got mad and went to law school.”
Well, about a year ago, I sat down and was determined to rekindle the flame of that book. And it had to begin with me re-reading everything I had written. Every word. And you know what?
I really was angry. Mad as hell!
And that anger came seething through in those sentences and paragraphs. Dripping with rhetoric and pointed sarcasm. After all, it was life I was talking about. The total disregard for life and how the industry places dollars over patient care at every turn.
But so much anger.
I found it hard to read myself. And I realized I was going to have to start over. To re-write it completely. To just let the stories tell themselves. No need for my commentary.
For example, a person should be able to trust their doctor when they sign a surgical consent form. They shouldn’t have their arms twisted by remarks like they will die without the doctor’s immediate intervention.
They shouldn’t have a myocardial infarction while on the surgical table, when their heart is on the bypass machine. And they shouldn’t have to have a cardiac assist device placed to compensate for the surgical ineptitude of the person holding the scalpel.
But this kind of stuff does happen, normally in small percentages. And there are risks patients have agreed to bear, even if they were scared into compliance.
But it gets worse.
The doctors should respond when the nurses call in the middle of the night to report that the patient lost arterial pulses in his extremity – the leg where the cardiac assist device (an Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump) was placed. This device is threaded through the femoral artery and if pulses disappear as a complication of this, well then, the clock is ticking on the life of that leg.
And they let it tick. For six hours. Till it was black and dead.
The doctors shouldn’t berate the nurses when they finally show up and try to blame the nurses for their own error. Their intentional decision to sleep and ignore the information the nurses provided.
We called continually. They ignored us continually.
The doctors, now realizing they cost this patient his leg, shouldn’t totally freak out and decide to amputate it in the intensive care unit instead of a sterile operating room. They also shouldn’t whack off a guy’s leg without giving him any pain medication or sedation.
And they did just that.
Even though we nurses were standing there with the medication in hand and politely suggesting they allow us to administer it.
The patient was on the ventilator. No worries of respiratory compromise. In fact, the doctors ordered us to paralyze the patient before they did the whacking so he couldn’t move. He couldn’t move with all his muscles paralyzed, and he couldn’t scream with a breathing tube down his throat. But paralytic agents do not kill pain and they do not alleviate anxiety.
He felt every bit of what they did to him.
Yes, I was really angry. About this and about hundreds of other examples of medical malpractice I saw routinely.
And the nurses have to remain part of the conspiracy of silence. Otherwise you will be terminated and blackballed. The doctors bring a lot of green to the hospital’s coffers and the administrators routinely throw nurses under the bus if they speak up.
Well, one of these days, I will get off my ass.
And I will finish re-writing that book. And I hope to just let the stories tell themselves. No need for my anger to shine through on those pages.
The reader will have their own.
Photo: A simple pic of a complex environment. Intentionally distorted to eliminate any trace of identity. For the record, during my some twenty-four year healthcare career, which was over two decades ago, I worked in five different hospitals in different capacities, two nursing homes, two plasma donor centers, and at a major blood bank. While in college, I worked with veterinarians; in a small animal clinic and at a large animal research farm. I’ll never violate anyone’s privacy and it will always be anyone’s guess as to the time or location where I may have witnessed something. Or maybe it’s just a story I heard on the winds. The dust devils of swirling leaves, now that they have fallen from the trees . . .
BTW: I did edit this post to remove rhetoric and sarcasm. But I did leave the word “whacking” in there. I thought it a better description than implying these guys were exercising some kind of surgical precision. Sorry about that little slip of the tongue. 🙂