Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hospital tales 2: And denial comes tumbling down

When life sends you into a tailspin, tell the tales.

A week ago today I laid in the hospital bed with a blood clot in my left leg and read my patient rights in a classy folder handed to me by the nurse. That brought back memories of the last time I had been in the hospital and the first time I had tried to exercise my rights as a patient.

In the mid 1970s Congress passed a law on patients’ rights. As I understood it I could now see my chart. Having spent lots of time in a rehab hospital starting in 1968, I was eager to read my chart. I asked to see it.

The next thing I know I get a visit in my room from the assistant administrator. He was as smooth as a knife cutting through butter as he chatted me up. After a bit he gently let it slip that I had a good relationship with the medical director and that he was sure I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that relationship by asking to see my chart.

Needless to say my patient rights melted like butter on a hot griddle.

Thirty years later, early in the afternoon I met Dr. Norris, the young on-call doctor, who had ordered the ultrasound that revealed the blood clot and who had put me in the hospital.

She did a great job of keeping my denial in place, saying that if my insurance approved Lovenox, a new blood thinner, for home use, then Sarah could inject the Lovenox at home and I could probably go home the next day. In the hospital one day and out the next. Piece of cake, I thought.

I called the insurance company and left a message (they were closed for the weekend) asking for approval of Lovenox at home.

A bit later Dr. Norris returned and said she’d like to consult with a vascular surgeon from Peoria. Wow, what a conscientious doctor I have, I thought.

Next thing I know she’s back explaining that she and the Peoria doc think that I’m a good candidate for lysing, a procedure where they inject a chemical directly into the vein to break up the clot in hopes of saving the valves in the vein which work very poorly if the clot stays in there too long.

Then sweet Dr. Norris took two swings at my denial with a sledge hammer. “IVCH doesn’t do lysing except in the emergency room when people are having a heart attack,” she said, “so if you decide to have the lysing we’ll transfer you to St. Francis in Peoria by ambulance or by air.” Then she let it slip that Dr. Debord said that I’m a “high morbidity risk.”


Around here patients who are about to die get shipped off to Peoria. And high morbidity risk? Fancy way of telling me I could die at any moment.

Dr. Norris left the room to allow Sarah and me time alone to decide about being transferred to St. Francis.

My denial tumbles down like a ragged old pair of pajamas. I’m tearing up. I’m choking up. “I’m not ready to die,” I tell Sarah. “I mean, I’m ready to see Jesus but I don’t want to leave you all alone. I don’t want to disappear on you. I’m sorry, Sarah, for putting you through this. I know it’s crazy to say I’m sorry--I didn’t choose this--but I’m sorry to put you through this misery.”

Sarah, the love of my life, lost her father before she was born and a step-father when she was 18-months old. I don’t want to be another loss in her life.

Sarah lowered the bed railing and sat on the bed. We hugged. We kept looking in each others eyes, Sarah looked away, trying to control her emotions. We held each other and when we parted she had tears in her eyes. “I’m trying to keep my emotions from taking over,” she said. If she went down her trail of losses she’d be too sad to think straight.

Poor Hannah, our eldest daughter, calls then and I choke up on the phone with her.

Sarah and I decided--lysing in Peoria it is. Staff tells us that the transfer will be by ambulance within an hour. Sarah heads out to bring a few things home and pack in order to stay the night with me at St. Francis.

No comments: