Thursday, September 29, 2011

So, here's the deal....

Mom had an appointment with the doctor today. She called me a little while ago to give me the lab results. (See posts below.) Turns out the ovarian tumor was what they call "borderline" and not malignant. The spot on the appendix, however, WAS malignant. So it's a good thing they went ahead and took the appendix out while they were in there. She has been referred to another oncologist who will now take another CT scan (this will be her third in 5 weeks) to be sure "they got everything." Then both docs - the GYN oncologist and the regular oncologist - will continue to monitor Mom to ensure no other cancer appears. So it looks like she will not have to go through chemo and/or radiation... at least for the time being.

Praise Jesus!

She is doing good and is considerably relieved, as are her kids, as I'm sure you can imagine. We are all very, very grateful.

I am also grateful she made it out of that hospital alive. After speaking with a few friends who have spent time in a hospital lately, either as the patient or caregiver, I have found that we all have had similar situations. This is not a good thing. In fact, it's downright scary.

My mom had her surgery early on a Monday morning. She lives out in the sticks, about a 45 minute drive from the hospital and was told by the doctors to be there at 5:30 am. Since I live out of town, I drove in the night before and spent the night at Mom's so I could drive her there. We left her house at 4:30 am.

Once we got to the hospital and checked in, it was only about half an hour before they took her back to the pre-op room, where I was able to stay with her. We were there another hour before they took her back to surgery and sent me to the waiting area. I was given updates throughout her surgery, and was told afterward that she "did great" and would be in recovery for about an hour. Everything seemed to be rocking along up to this point. But then...

One hour turned to four. Why? Not because Mom was still asleep, mind you. She had been awake for 3 hours lying in recovery along with other post-op patients. She had to stay down there because THEY DIDN'T HAVE A ROOM TO PUT HER INTO! And they wouldn't let me go in there to see her, either. So it was like post-operative purgatory. To make matters worse, nobody told her anything about how her surgery went, what they found... NOTHING.

She had zero information until they finally took her to a room and I told her what the doctor had told me. I was shocked when she looked at me right after getting to her room and said, "Did they tell you anything?"

I said, "Yes. They told me how it went."

Mom - "Well...????"

Me - "Huh?"

Mom- "What did they say???"

Me - "Wha....? You mean nobody told YOU?"

Is it just me, or is that just plain weird? I mean, they had her in post-op purgatory for 4 solid hours, and didn't give her a clue that everything went okay? I mean, I understand that she was on some pretty heavy pain medication during that time, but they didn't tell her ANYTHING. That did not sit well with me.

Unfortunately, it was downhill from there.

I will not give you a detailed description of each day. It would just be too much. Suffice it to say that I was very disturbed by the entire ordeal.

It's different than I remember a hospital to be. I was the one doing all the heavy labor, like helping her to the bathroom (which included unplugging various IV's, unhooking and turning off leg massage contraptions, holding up the oxygen wire...), charting liquid input and output, even resetting her IV's when they would start beeping. When we pushed the nurse call button, either about the IV's beeping or because she needed more pain meds, it would take usually about 45 minutes for someone to finally get there. And it would typically be only after I walked to the nurses' station to remind them that we needed someone to come to the room. Pretty sad, really.

Mom had one really great nurse named Ginger. But for the rest of the week, all the other nurses were float nurses, meaning they bounced around from hospital to hospital. Those nurses would come in and know nothing about what kind of surgery she had, what kind of food she was supposed to eat, sometimes even what medication they were supposed to give her. I stopped a male nurse from injecting Mom with a different kind of pain medication than she had been taking, and had to tell him what they had been giving her previously. He should have been able to read that right off her chart. I wondered in the beginning why Mom's surgeon had told her she would need a "caregiver" to stay with her in the hospital. I now understand I was needed there to keep them from doing more harm to her than good.

The icing on the cake was that there wasn't even a shower in her room. There was a community shower at the end of the hall. I was lucky to have a friend who allowed me to come shower at her house on a couple of occasions when my brother came to relieve me for an hour or so. But poor Mom couldn't leave, and was way too nervous to use the shower down the hall, even with me standing guard outside. And I don't blame her one bit. Plus, for the first couple of days, the farthest she could walk at all was to the bathroom inside our room. She couldn't have even made it all the way down the hall if she had wanted to.

Also, everything you've heard about hospitals waking you up all night every night is absolutely true. They would come in periodically throughout the day, sure. But once the clock hit 10:30 pm they were in the room, turning on the lights every hour on the hour to "check vitals" and take blood. The blood work is done around 4 am. When I asked about this particular piece of protocol I was told that the doctors like to have lab results when they come in the morning. "Sometimes they show up as early as 6:00 am," I was informed. I wondered then how the doctors expected patients to recover when they couldn't get any sleep at night and were, in turn, getting their days and nights mixed up. I'm no medical expert, but I've been told my entire life that rest is a key element in healing. I guess that doesn't include recuperating from major surgery. Who knew?!

After 5 days in the hospital, Mom finally was released to go home and is still recovering. I am tremendously thankful that she is doing well and that the surgery was a success. I'm grateful to the doctors who found and removed the sick parts of her. But I'm also glad I was there to help.

Sadly, I'm not sure how things might have turned out otherwise.

2 comments:

rick said...

Linnea, GREAT news about your Mom's results ,,,

I am so glad that your Mom is done with surgery and made it back home in one piece where she can heal..It is absolutely appalling to read that so much can and does go wrong at hospitals these days. I seriously wonder if she would have made it out of there if she had been alone. Thank GOD she had you to watch over her. After my divorce from a Shreveport gal in 2006.. I found myself alone and 1400 miles away from the nearest relative. Living in Bossier city, as much as I loved the people, the culture , the weather , the cost of living .... I knew that long term I would wind up ill at some point . What just happened (or almost happened ) to your Mom in that hospital is what I envisioned would be my fate if I stayed down there and didn't have a "significant other" to look after me when that day comes. 10 months later I fortuntely was able to obtain a transfer back to Baltimore where I do have sisters and long time friends .We have tons of modern , world reknown hospitals here but I am certain the care in most of them would mirror what you have experienced down there , Its a shame and your right..very scary that every hospital visit must be a perilous event that requires the patient to have a loved one there 24 / 7 to protect them from incompetence ..I hope your workplace has been understanding as you have sacrificed alot to take care of the most important person in all of our lives.. your MOM.. God bless you both and I'll keep praying for all good news going forward..Your Maryland buddy - Rick

Linnea said...

Rick,

I debated whether to write about the hospital experience, because I didn't want to seem ungrateful that my mom's ordeal turned out well. But because it was such a huge surprise and disappointment to witness the drastic changes in patient care, I felt it was important to, at the very least, make the few people who read this blog aware of the situation.

Thanks for the prayers! And have a great weekend!