Saturday, February 9, 2008

Just Wondering Why

I had to take my MIL to the ER last night. She had a severe heart attack about two weeks ago and has been recovering at home. Yesterday, she had such difficulty breathing that she called her cardiologist and he told her to go to the ER for a chest X-ray. Easy, right? Huh, huh. I picked her up about 6:30 and we were in the ER by 7:00. We checked in and sat down amid twenty other colorful characters in the waiting area :-o) They called us back and asked her a gazillion questions before finally taking her to a room. Once in that room, a nurse came in and did his thing and left us to wait for the ER doc.

This is the part where things started to go blurry for me. About an hour and a half later, the doctor popped into the room, spent five minutes asking questions and listening to her lungs, and popped out again. The nurse came back in, took some blood (lots of it actually), gave her some lasix, and out he went. A little more than an hour later, the doctor popped back in again, said she had some fluid build up on her lungs, that he needed to consult with the cardiologist on call, and that most likely, she'd be spending the night. Out he went and we were left to sit for another hour before the nurse popped in to "see if we needed anything." At this point, we were four hours into our ER adventure, neither of us had eaten supper, and the ER was getting busier by the minute. I could see patients being placed on cots in the hallway. As a matter of fact, there were two patients outside our door. I assume they were waiting to get into the room we were occupying. An hour and a half later, the nurse pops in to tell us he's doing paperwork to get my MIL a room. I failed to mention that during this 5 1/2 hour confinement, we witnessed a couple brawling in the waiting area, a two-year old having seizures next door, and a man with facial fractures decided the ER staff was taking too long and he was leaving AMA. Oooookkkkkaaaaaayyy! A wonderful way to spend a Friday night.

Here's my question, and my complaint. What in the name of all that is good and holy are they doing during that 5 1/2 hour time frame? I know they are working and that there are multiple patients to deal with. I fully understand that and I am thankful for modern medicine. I do question the efficiency of an emergency room though. Do they only staff it with one doctor? Why do they not have shared records with other departments in the hospital? For example, in the rush to get to the ER, my MIL forgot to pick up her meds. When we got to triage and they asked what meds she took, she couldn't tell them because many of them are meds she started since her heart attack. She didn't have them all memorized yet :-o) This is the same hospital that she was in two weeks ago. Why were they not able to pull up her records and see that for themselves?

My FIL goes to a local VA hospital (for veterans). He has a patient number and anytime he goes for a visit, whether it be a routine visit or a visit to their ER, he gives them his patient number and they are able to electronically pull up all of his records. They can tell everything from this. If it's been a while since he's been there, they just ask him questions and update it. This seems like a no-brainer. So why in the world doesn't our local hospital have this same set-up? I really need to understand this because these are the types of things that bug me and make me never want to go to the doctor. I also need to mention another situation that I noted. When the nurse came in to draw blood, he ended up having to leave to get supplies to do so. What is up with that? Why are these rooms not better stocked? This is where we go for emergencies. Shouldn't they be prepared for emergencies? To me, being prepared means having everything you might need right there in the room. They have a whole set of cabinets and drawers dedicated for supplies. Why were they not there last night?

I truly want to understand these things. I don't expect perfection but I do expect hospitals to have it together. I expect them to have the things they need to work with right there. When I see things like I saw last night, it makes me fearful of ever having to go to the ER. I see the ER nurses running around like mad trying to take care of multiple patients and I wonder how they keep it all together. I guess what bothers me is that I see so much potential for error in situations like this. Unnecessary errors. Somebody please help me understand. Am I just being unreasonable?

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Jenny said...

I am soooo on this, sister! I've sent an e-mail to Pete and as soon as he answers...because he knows everything, ya know...I'll let you know! I would imagine that a big part of all that would be that they are short nurses, CNAs and such...not sure about the supplies. Maybe they have to keep things in a central supply area because of people like me that would steal the syringes and needles! lol!

I'm only commenting so I can get a link! lol!!

annie said...

Hmmm... I dunno either. I have spent hours in the er with matt's grandmother and others and it's been hours of nothing! BUT when Izzy went through after her near drowning we were in and out to the children's hospital picu so fast. I always thought maybe the focus on the serious cases and take their time otherwise (you know, with people they think just might live through the night?) IT's frustrating! I'm sorry you had a rough night. It's hard to be at the hospital and see so much hurt. Prayers for your MIL.

MondaythroughSunday said...

Wow..what a night!! I do not think you are unreasonable at all! I hate going to the ER and am thankful my time spent there has been very minimal!

The Foxes said...

Hi Sonja,
I'm so glad you're going to do the Weight Loss Challenge with us!!
I look forward to getting to know you.
I will visit again soon.

Jennifer =-)

The Foxes said...

One more thing...
What part of East TN are you from??

I, too, live in TN.

Jennifer =-)

Anonymous said...

The couple times I was in the hospital we would ask the same things. The last time I knew what to expect and we put our foot down because we knew if we didn't it would take forever the way things get done there. It is scary how unorganized they can be. we were always told that's just the way it is.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry about what you had to go through in the ER Friday night. I'm not too keen staying in ERs too -there may be just too many "cases" there that my stomach is really not up to. If you know what I mean. I've seen some when my MIL - may she rest in peace - was hospitalized.

I cannot answer for the hospital but I hope their service improves.That's all -service- that really matter most, generally speaking.

And I hope your MIL gets better.

storyteller said...

What a frustrating experience! Your questions all seem perfectly reasonable to me. I hope your MIL finally got her tests and is getting the help she needs to continue her recovery. You’re all in my prayers.
Hugs and blessings,

Shawna said...

I hope your MIL and BIL are doing well. I guess I'm behind. So, you BIL did get the transplant? How's he doing now?