Friday, April 1, 2011

When he fell . . .

When he fell and couldn’t get up, the ambulance took him to the nearby University Medical Center.  Did he have a stroke?  “No, but we’ll keep him overnight.”
First was the overdose of sleep medication, so he didn’t wake up the next day.  Then they overdosed his coumadin, causing GI bleeding that requires transfusion.  What mistake will come today?  The elderly and infirm lack resilience, so my friend may not survive. 

When I needed help a few years ago, I suffered at home rather than call the ambulance that I knew would take me to that same hospital.  But I had knowledge and a choice that my friend did not.  My bleeding stopped, and the pain stopped, and I am alive today.

But why should survival depend on knowing enough to avoid healthcare?  What must we do to convince institutions to pay attention and provide acceptable healthcare that doesn’t harm patients?  The knowledge is there.  No one deliberately tries to harm patients, but that is what happens all too often. 

Barbara looked at me with anguish and frustration.  “What can I do?”  We both knew there was no answer.  She is losing him.  Not to accident or disease, but to carelessness within the system that is supposed to help him.  Prescribing Coumadin is not rocket science, but it does require attention to detail.  Secretly, I was glad I am no longer working in the healthcare sector and don’t have to take responsibility for these errors.  I also wonder what will happen for me next time--when I don’t have a choice. 

Maybe there will be a revolution in healthcare.  Maybe we’ll stop paying for poor care, and doctors will pay attention to patients.   Maybe I’ll win the lottery.

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