Sunday, June 21, 2009
Letting Off Steam
When it comes to a hospitalized family member, I can be a nurse's nightmare. I'm that big mouthed family member who won't stop nagging until my loved one's needs are met. I start out pretty gently, but I don't make it a secret that I'm fairly bright and a damn good nurse. If a nurse does not step up to the plate, I let my displeasure be known. I'm fierce like that. I'm not rude, but I'm not a pushover. If you're ever sick, it's me you want in your corner. I was a pain in the ass like this with my patient's too-I'd always fight for their needs and rights. Rights? That's correct, patients have rights. At the core of these rights is the expectation that a patient will be treated with dignity.
What is dignified about making a fresh post operative patient wait an hour and twenty minutes for pain medication? Waiting until an 82 year old man is near tears with agony and begging for pain medication is unacceptable. Offering that same man one darvocet tablet after he's been begging for an hour and twenty minutes is just bullshit. It's going to take another hour for the patient to get any sort of relief from oral medication and frankly, what good is one darvocet going to do for someone in extreme pain? I'm not going to completely blame the nurse here because it all started with the physician who prescribed M&Ms for a vascular post op patient.
Gad, I need a drink.
Around 4 Pm today, I went to see Mr. Larger Than Life for a cookout at his house. My sister in law had told me earlier that his arm had been hurting and his finger tips were numb, but he'd adamantly refused to go to the hospital. He sat in his chair all day with a heating pad on his arm; he was convinced he'd pulled a muscle. When I got there, his arm was scarlet red from the first degree burn he gave himself from the heating pad and his fingertips were like ice. I told him if he didn't go to the emergency room, he was going to lose his arm. I've never seen him put his shoes on so fast. MLTL had a brachial artery embolus-a clot in the artery that feeds the lower arm. He had no pulses in the radial or ulnar arteries.
The ER staff was wonderful. The surgeon and OR staff who were called in were wonderful. The floor nurse was something else entirely. Another hour after ingesting the M&M pain medication, this man's arm was still throbbing. For 2 hours, I'd been been telling his nurse that the swelling, weak pulse and extreme pain were really not normal in her fresh post-op patient. She kept telling me that she didn't see anything wrong with the way it looked or felt. I finally looked at her and told her to call the doctor. It turns out that his vascular dressing was so tight it was cutting off circulation to his forearm and hand. Once the doctor released the dressing, his pulse became bounding and his hand immediately warmed. MLTL fell asleep.
As much as this man can be a thorn in my side, I abhor unnecessary human suffering. It's so cruel to know that relief is just around the corner, but because the secretary did not get the patient into the computer, he had to suffer. Ain't right.
He did make me laugh a bit though in his fresh post op and versed clouded state of mind. How his penis came up as a topic of discussion is beyond me. It could be that this was his way of telling us he needed to pee. Out of the blue he said "it used to be my pride and joy, but now it's just a watering tube." With the next breath, he asked if he could have a hot nurse. Ha. Not tonight, MLTL. Not tonight.