06 March 2007

Of Doctors and Diapers

It's hard to post from the bottom end of a pile of tissues, cough syrup and anti-biotics. We were all sick (again) last week, and poor Little A ended up in the hospital, on top of getting some test results back that were less than favorable.

Since Little A's been born, I've dealt with more than my fair share of doctors and nurses, and the people that they employ. No matter how many interactions I have with them, I'm always surprised at the either lack of compassion or extreme kindness that they demonstrate, because the scale seems to tip to the exaggerated in that profession, and I'm still unsure why.

When I took Little A in at 3:00 in the morning, the ER was deserted. There wasn't anyone at the registration desks, so I wandered back to where I heard laughing voices. The person that "greeted" me, said, "Can I help you" I told her that I needed to register in the ER. She then asked, "Does someone need to be seen?" I looked at her for about three seconds, then just said, "yes". What I was really thinking was:

"Let's briefly review the facts. You are employed in an emergency room. I don't believe that appointments are typically scheduled. It's 3 in the morning. My child is screaming. I'm standing in your hallway, saying I need to register. Do you really need help deducing if someone needs to be seen"?

Fortunately, the doctor that saw Little A was wonderful. He was very concerned, thoroughly explained the tests that needed to be done, and even stayed after his shift to make sure that he personally spoke to the physician taking over. He was such a rarity in the medical field, I wanted to kiss him and beg him to stay with us, but instead I penned him a note and sent it in the mail to thank him for his kindness. In my past experience, men shy away from women that look like they might not have showered for a day or so, lack make-up and have stains on their sweater that could very possibly be vomit, no matter their pleadings or affections.

My friend S was the first to arrive and sit with us. Lucky for her, she got first-hand experience in the stupid question/statement saga. Here are some samplings:

"Is she waking up"? Asked by a nurse, while Little A was coming out from under a sedative and screaming so loud we could barely hear anything over the noise. (Note: Little A's eyes were open)

"Does she have a substance abuse problem"? I didn't even answer that question, I just stared at her.

"Abuse alcohol"? Again, blank stare.

"So that would be her sister"? When I told her that Little A lived with myself and her sibling, Big A. I actually used the word sibling, which apparently isn't indicative of "sister".

"Is your partner back"? Question posed to S as she held Little A while I went home to pack bags and shower.

"You're fine, quit fussing". Nurse talking to Little A. She wasn't "fussing". She was screaming and her fever was 106. She'd been catheterized, poked, had barium put into her body via an enema, strapped to x-ray tables, temperature monitored rectally, vomited, and was ripping out her hair and grasping her stomach. I'm sure that a jury of 6 or more mothers would have acquitted me.

Ultimately, after yet another hospital stay, we finally went home and all was well again in the kingdom. I choose to focus on that rather than the disaster that is my castle. (When do I get servants?)


mamalang said...

I HATE emergency rooms. I understand that there are people that abuse them, but for those of us that aren't, please have some compassion. And really, sometimes, I wonder why people joined the medical field. I'm glad you had some reinforcements during your difficult time. You've been in my thoughts lately. Thanks for updating us and I hope things start to get better.

Lauren said...

I hope you are all on the mend. People can be so stupid and insesitive sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nurse and all I can say is I'm sorry. I've met some awful nurses as well and some wonderful. You're poor little girl, sounds like they put her through the wringer.

I've had somewhat the same experience in day surgery with Katie, except Katie is handicapped. When she comes out of anesthetic it's like the most severely pissed off cat waking up, she bit her IV in half, she couldn't pull it out with her hands because I was holding them.

I'm glad to her that your family came to help you, you're lucky. Cleaning your house and letting you sleep is one of the nicest thing someone can do for a mom, especially with a sick kid.

Take care of yourself.

Shawn said...

I think the stupid questions were God's way of sneaking a little humor into a scary situation....I still laugh out loud when I picture the look on your face when the nurse was going through the questions...I am glad the chunk is feeling better...I love you ladies!

BECC said...


toni said...

As a former cardiac RN, I can agree with your insight that folks in the medical profession tend to be at one end of a compassion spectrum or the other (the "so not" end). I believe it's the intense nature of the profession *and* the personal motivation that brought each individual into it.

I was unhappy working as a nurse, though not because I disliked the job itself and not because of my patients. Being on a cardiac floor, a good percentage of my patients were elderly. I *loved* those patients dearly (my favorite patient population in fact).

What I didn't love was the short staffing, the unsafe floating of nurses from one skilled area to another where their skills were "basic" at best, and the "we eat our own" mentality that sadly prevailed. The short staffing bothered me most of all because it didn't allow me to be the kind of nurse I wanted to be. I wanted to sit with those elderly patients and drink in their wisdom and bring them a little joy in the midst of their hospital stay. I didn't have time. And I wanted to feel that the nurse/patient ratio was safe at all times. It wasn't.

We were a "top 100" hospital and HIGHLY rate for cardiac care (Cleveland Clinic surgeons and protocol). And yet we were worked to the bone to keep pace. Burnout? Uh huh.