Ladies of the Lamp – My Nurses

English: Nurses on the Army Hospital Ship Reli...

English: Nurses on the Army Hospital Ship Relief in 1898 while serving off of Cuba, US Navy Historical Center Photograph NH 92846 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I’m here for my spa day,” I tell the nurse who checks me in before surgery.  We are in a private little room with a television.  My husband has taken off to forage for breakfast.  I am only a little nervous.  I know too much to not be a little nervous.

“Fabulous.  You’ll love our luxurious treatments.  First, a warm body scrub.”  She hands me 2 packets of warmed chlorhexidine towelettes.  “Wipe yourself down completely with these.  Well, not completely – don’t use them on your face, or genitals.”

“Ahhh…” I say.  “Everything but the important parts.”

“Yep.  Everything but the important parts. When your husband gets here he can do your back.”  She hands me the requisite hospital gown, replete with snaps that don’t snap, ties that won’t tie, and a shortage of fabric that will undoubtedly leave little to the imagination for any one walking the halls behind me.  “Opening in the back. I’ll help you if he doesn’t get back soon.”  She is all-business, but gentle.  Her eyes are kind, her touch light.  She is one of my own – a colleague, a peer, a professional.

My surgeon is ahead of schedule.  I am taken to the pre-op holding area.  I am introduced to my new nurse.  She stands at the foot of my bed with a rolling computer.  After introducing herself, she turns to the computer, leans on it.  She spends the next 10 minutes talking with a colleague about non-nursing, non-surgical, nonsensical stuff – where she bought what, where she went and with whom, “We should get together” type bullshit.  I try to remain calm.  I know my lucid time is drawing to an end and I want to make sure everything is in order – I clear my throat – repeatedly.  I want to feel safe in her care.  She turns to me, irritated, and I remind myself: she is a colleague, a peer, and at last she remembers she is a professional…

Somewhere along the line, it has come out that I am not only a nurse, but a nursing instructor.  I do not usually offer this information, I don’t want my caregivers feeling nervous about providing care, or to have the feeling they are being evaluated for each skill they perform.  Some nurses had horrible experiences with nursing instructors – I just want what everyone wants – the best care each nurse can give.

Another nurse starts my IV.  Hands are washed and sanitized appropriately. Information is reviewed, questions asked and answered. My skin is prepped, all precautions taken.  The IV catheter slides in painlessly; the dressing is applied expertly.  If she is the least bit nervous it does not show – she is calm and competent.  Her demeanor is calming, supportive, gentle and sincere.  She is one of my own – a colleague, a peer, a professional.

A nurse-anesthestist student introduces herself.  She will be assisting with the induction of anesthesia.  She is bubbly and smiling.  I am at a teaching hospital.  I know students, residents, and interns will be on the care team.  I have signed papers that I know and understand this fact.  I am okay with students; we are all learners at some point.  She asks a few questions about prior surgeries and experiences with anesthesia.  She does not examine me other than to ask me to stick out my tongue.  My nervousness ratchets up a notch or two, but I cannot put my finger on a reason, just a general sense of foreboding.  She promises to come see me in the recovery room…She is one of my own:  a colleague, a peer, a professional.

I wake up in the recovery room.  Something is wrong – horribly wrong.  My face is swollen, my lip is throbbing, and I have a breathing tube in my mouth.  I cannot speak.  A new nurse – with a round, sweet face and smooth voice urges me to relax and not fight the tube.  She will call to have someone remove it as soon as it determined I am breathing well on my own.  I try to relax but my worst nightmare is being realized.  I do not want a breathing tube…I do not want a respirator.  I try to modulate my breathing but my diaphragm will not relax.  I cannot suck air in.  I hear and feel the respirator breathe for me and I cringe.  She wipes the tears from my face and calls the anesthesia team.  They are tied up in surgery, she tells me.  Everything will be all right, she tells me.  She wipes more tears and stands beside my bed.  Together we work on my breathing – timing my efforts, using accessory muscles, relaxing.  I am groggy, struggling, but we make progress. She does not leave my side for a very long time. When she does, it is to harangue the respiratory team to come remove the tube.  I hear her on the phone.  She is firm, insisting they not leave me on the machine any longer than necessary.  My patient advocate.  She is one of my own:  a colleague, a peer, a professional.

The nurse-anesthetist student stands over me…finally.  She is no longer bubbly, or smiling.  “Your intubation was extremely difficult,” she states flatly.  “You’ll be getting a letter from the anesthesia department informing you of how to better prepare for future surgeries or emergencies.  We left the tube in to make sure we had an airway in case you couldn’t breathe on your own.”  I watch her deflate the cuff of the endo-tracheal tube.  She pulls it away from my mouth and I feel the tube tearing out of my throat, which is raw and has a metallic, bloody taste.  I cannot swallow.  I can barely breathe. My face feels more swollen and my lip is bloodied. I feel inadequate, blame-worthy – like I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.  I feel small and worthless.  I ask myself “Is she really one of my own?”  A colleague?  A peer?  A professional?

I am taken to my room.  I am handled ever so gently.  My pain is addressed – my breathing, still shallow and ragged, keeps setting off alarms.  My oxygen levels are low.  Some of my nurses sit with me while I use my incentive spirometer to increase my lung function and expand my lungs.  I can pitifully only do about as much as a newborn infant.  But we keep at it, making progress in miniscule increments.  The aides check my vital signs and print out strips.  I ask what the strips are for.  “The docs and residents see these – they are posted on your chart.”  I notice they only print the strips after my breathing exercise, when my numbers are good.  I ask about this.  I wonder aloud if my surgeon knows that my breathing is such an issue 98% of the time or if he only sees the “good strips”.  My diaphragm is stiff, non-cooperative.  When I try to breathe in it stiffens, instead of lowering to expand my lungs, it constricts.  It will not relax.  But I continue to make progress.

In the wee morning hours before I am to be discharged – I awaken in a panic.  My monitor is beeping wildly.  My oxygen levels are very, very low.  My nose is completely stuffed up – there is no oxygen going into my airway through the nasal canula they have applied, and very little breath through my ravaged throat.  I call for my nurse.  She is a long time coming, even though I have told her over the intercom that I cannot breathe.  She checks the monitor – then silences it – at one point she turns the noisy machine off.  She replaces the nasal canula.  I tell her I cannot breathe through my nose.  She turns the oxygen up a little.  I tell her I need an oxygen mask.  I again take the canula from my nostrils and place it across my open mouth.  At least the oxygen will get in that way.  My diaphragm is stiff once again, non-compliant with my attempts to inhale deeply, or even shallowly for that matter.  She tells me I am not trying – that I need to relax.  I tell her I cannot relax when I cannot breathe.  She leaves the room – with me sitting on the edge of the bed, oxygen tubing in my mouth, praying I don’t pass out.  She returns and makes an elaborate show of calling Respiratory for a face mask.  She is loud, abrasive, demanding.  Apparently, Respiratory is not inclined to help her out.  She calls another floor – someone delivers a face mask within minutes and I am breathing better. She asks if there is anything else I need…as if she has done some supreme favor for me…I haven’t the strength nor the breath to deal with this woman at this point.  I remember that I am a colleague…a peer…and a professional.

I am home and recovering from my recent ordeal.  As I reflected on the nursing care I received – the nursing care I will be asked to evaluate by means of patient survey – I was reduced to tears several times.  Writing this post has been gut-wrenching.  Certain nurses have already been commended by me to the hospital’s Quality Assurance nurses who visited me during my admission.  Most were excellent.  Some not.  Those nurses, as well, have been or will be addressed.


Filed under General Mumblings, Uncategorized

63 responses to “Ladies of the Lamp – My Nurses

  1. Wow. what a gut-wrenching read. I am soon to have surgery myself. I am not a nurse. I am not a colleague. I am a professional of another kind-do you think they are more careful with a lawyer, or less? Would it make anyone concerned that I might sue?
    I also had a horrible experience at a hospital (I was given a medication to which I was allergic. I coded. The nurse panicked.) this brought it all back. I hope you are able to recover with no complications. I’ll be thinking of you.

    • I think it cannot hurt to mention your profession. Facilities certainly want to avoid lawsuits. I don’t know that it will help, but certainly will not hurt. If you do not have someone to advocate for you – you are probably screwed. That pains me to say, but it is true. Medication errors are rampant. Most people do not know whether an IV is inserted correctly, whether procedures are completed appropriately, or even if the care they receive is adequate. I have to say that I was pleased that the nurse managers and quality assurance nurses sought me out for my opinions before I was discharged and I was able to relay my concerns. I do not know if that was based on my professional expertise or not.

      I will keep you in my thoughts for your upcoming surgery. I pray all goes well.

  2. Katy, I’m pretty even-keel in life, but this is flat-out ridiculous.

    There’s one thing I expect in life: Customer Service. And this is your human body, not some a product or someone bringing your food and drinks to your table.

    So unfortunate that you had such a horrible experience. When my mom had a stroke, she couldn’t talk for several days. She laid in the bed crying trying to get someone’s attention that she was being given her darned anti-anxiety medication. NO ONE looked in her chart until my sister asked a nurse if she was given it. My mom started flailing her arms in joy. She was trapped in her mind without medication.

    I’m particularly alarmed at the injustice from your own profession to one of their own. That is appalling. They should be reprimanded and sent for some retraining.

    We all know that so many of our jobs are not “kittens and teddy bears,” right, but com’ on, man!

    Big kudos to the staff that did their job as though they were treating themselves.

    The last thing I’ll say is that your sacrifice may help a lot of other people be treated with a whole lot more dignity and respect.

    Hope you heal up very soon, my friend. Godspeed to you.

    • MJ – how awful for your mother. She needed those anxiety meds more at that time than probably any other in her lifetime. I love nurses, and the nursing profession but there is always room for improvement.

      The demand for nurses is great – the competition for admission to nursing programs is intense – sometimes admission is based on grades alone. Even in our own program, I see students admitted that I would not want caring for me or my loved ones. We will continue to turn out nurses who lack essential skills and abilities – communication, compassion, and respect despite our best efforts. These cannot be taught – although I’m pretty sure there will be some retraining going on in the Tampa area!!!

      Those nurses whose touch, compassion and competence kept me sane and safe – were appreciated and I thanked them whenever I could. I know they don’t hear it often enough.

      I am healing up nicely – and my respiratory problems are resolving. I am sure that my perspective will be given much consideration.

  3. Woops, it should say “she was NOT being given …”

  4. That was indeed scary to read. Being unable to breathe is one of the more frightening things anyone can experience. As a healthcare professional with a bunch more in the family, it’s tough to read about the breadth of quality of care you received.

    There are currently some regulations in place which will base a large portion of a hospital’s reimbursement for surgery and / or in-patient care entirely on the surveys you spoke of. With your professional expertise and insight, i’m certain your survey answers will be spot on.

    The vast majority of people who fill the surveys out have no such expertise. They may be disoriented, demented or just frightened or pissed off. I hate to say it, but the state of healthcare in the U.S. is spiraling downward.

    I’m glad you’re home and recovering. As for my own healthcare plans, I’m hoping to wake up dead the morning after my 103rd birthday.

    • Hey, I like your plan, although I do not think my body will make it to 103.

      I understand that the patient satisfaction surveys will be used, in part, to determine reimbursement. Many hospitals are now offering concierge services (manicures, massages, hair cuts, room service, etc) in an attempt to keep patients happy during their stay, instead of focusing on the delivery of safe and appropriate care. The average patient knows if their pain is controlled, whether their questions are answered, and whether the food is any good; they probably lack the expertise to decide whether their care was worth a damn.

      And you are right – it is very frightening to not be able to breathe.

      • I certainly hope you don’t think that my comments discounted your feelings about your experience, or anyone’s feelings about their experiences in healthcare, for that matter.

        It just strikes me as odd that opinions should have the weight that they’re assigning to them. Particulalry in a country where a great many people do almost nothing to take care of themselves physically and where coddling is becoming an art form.

        “My knee replacement didn’t go so well, but my mani-pedi was one of the best ever and the surf and turf at Community General is to die for!”

      • Regardless, glad it’s over and you’re on the mend.

        • I used to buy and sell antiques and collectibles on Ebay as a little side job/hobby. They changed the rules a couple of years ago that the customer was ALWAYS right – that they could refuse to pay for merchandise, that only the buyers could rate the transaction, not sellers, etc. When the rules changed, I quietly picked up my marbles and went home. Ebay didn’t miss me, amazingly.

          We need input from patients, and most hospitals do listen – they HAVE to, in an effort to curb malpractice claims. But to think that our healthcare system will be so fundamentally subject to the same whims of an uninformed buying public as Ebay…truly frightening.

          • Sadly, that only one of countless changes to healthcare which is driving it into the ground. I know an ICU nurse. She was telling me that they recently made all the record keeping digital. No more paper! Seems like a good idea, except the software sucks. While doing an evaluation note on a new patient, a woman in her 80’s who, like many ICU patients was a little to close to death’s door, the nurse had to answer multiple questions about the woman’s last menstrual cycle before the computer would let get to minor details, like vital signs. I realize that it likely only took a moment to get past the questions, but this is the ICU!!!

            Assuming that patient recalls anything about her time in the ICU (few people do), she’ll likely trash the nurse for being inattentive because she spent too much time on the computer.

            I’m moving to Borneo.

  5. Oh, Katy, I am so glad you’re ok. But what a nightmare.
    It is indeed a sad statement on U.S. hospitals and healthcare systems. As an all-too-frequent patient, it makes me shudder. I once had a very fatalistic feeling about medical procedures and surgery, Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.

    Now, like you, I know too much. And with each needle inserted, I worry.

    That said, I had a huge complex operation 30 years ago, where my GI tract was totally reorganized. It was done at Johns Hopkins. HOPKINS! And they screwed up absolutely everything before the surgery. They tried to give me the wrong medicine (I refused), they insisted I eat (I had been on a clear liquid diet for a week already and even the hospital meatloaf they brought in looked appealing), the brought in a portable EKG machine which started smoking when turned on … but in the end the surgery was the best thing that could have happened to me. It changed my life. Improved my life.

    Here’s hoping that this surgery, in spite of the horrors, helped you in ways you don’t yet know. Mine did.

    • Oh, the surgical procedure itself went swimmingly. No concerns about that. But the respiratory nightmare was just that – a nightmare. I coughed up little bits of what I have to assume were my TONSILS for several days afterward. My diaphragm still occasionally spasms. One of my teeth needs repair and is cracked – probably from the intubation. But my incisions, and my stomach, have been great. I am certain the procedure has corrected a long-standing, very painful problem of a twisting stomach and has eliminated the potential for gangrene requiring emergency surgery.

      The story about your surgery is a classic example of even a very prestigious organizatiaon making really stupid mistakes. I wish every patient could have an advocate at their bedside. I also wish there wasn’t the need for one. The health care system is scary to navigate. Very scary.

      • I’m so glad that the surgery was a success, then. The rest of the problems will fade as will the sharpness (although sadly not memory entirely).

  6. How scary. I am glad that at least a few kind and competent people were taking care of you.

    • I had some real angels, that’s for sure. The nurse in the recovery room was probably the most appreciated – she kept me focused and I felt safe in spite of my fears and the chaos.

  7. Gosh .. with an upcoming surgery, I am frightened even more than I was before I read this. My fear was because I have experienced some of these issues you mentioned. I have had really good care at Charlotte Memorial because I was in ICU and almost dead-girl. They didn’t expect me to live through the night. SInce then, each time I’m there, they are extremely on top of everything and me. I did have bronchial pneumonia on another hospital visit and was gasping for air for what seemed like forever before someone came in. It was 3:00 a.m. so I attributed it to their tiredness. She was a little edgy when she had to tend to me. STILL … I am always so grateful that they have decided to give of themselves to care for me or patients. It’s a hard job. My sister is a director of a surgical center but was a nurse for 35 years. She worked in the ER at Bellevue Hospital in New York. You can imagine what a zoo that was, anyway …. she is cold as an ice cube even if I say I’m dead. It just floats over her head. Maybe, that’s the time to call it quits …. when you just don’t give a sh-t. One thing I do feel when I’m in a hospital is totally child-like helpless. It is not a good feeling.
    I’m glad you are home. I hope you continue to recover with as little discomfort as possible. Be well … God Bless …

    • Izzy – I do hope I haven’t frightened you. You’ve been through a lot and I’m sure you will be fine. The nurses at Charlotte Regional are top notch – I worked there a couple winters ago.

      Nursing is a hard job – and many do get burned out. We continue to admit people into our program who are on their second or third careers – they are after the paycheck and many will flat out tell you that. It is a good-paying job, but it can be thankless, back-breaking work with long hours, endless paperwork, and demanding (sometimes down-right rude) patients. But I’m glad for those gentle souls who enter the profession for the right reasons.

      I’ll keep you in my prayers for your upcoming surgery. You’ll breeze right through it!!

      • Thanks Kate … it won’t be until the end of August – I think. My ortho is on vacation. It’s what has delayed all of my medical clearances – doctors on vacation. I’m glad for that. They’ll be rested. ~~~~ : – )
        I get anxiety each time I go into the hospital. BUT – I have learned that a big smile and a THANK YOU makes the nurses happy and more accommadating. AND – what not to be thankful for … they are taking care of you and you are in a helpless position. It’s best to be kind and they respond accordingly. I’ve had nurses tell me at release time that they will miss me because of all of the appreciation I’ve shown. After all, isn’t that what all of us want – a little appreciation for whatever we do. Be well … Isadora

  8. Wow, that was riveting. I hope the rest of your recovery goes smoothly. The scary thing about this story is that it doesn’t really matter how wonderful the first ten nurses were if the 11th doesn’t care whether you can breathe or not.

    And did that nurse anesthetist student actually blame you for being difficult to intubate? She really shouldn’t be allowed to talk to people. Or intubate them.

    • Yes. Yes, she did. In fact, I did receive the “letter” explaining that it was irregularities with my head/face/neck that prevented the anesthesia team from effortlessly intubating me. The tone of that letter is very much “blame the victim”. I will write them back and let them know of the dental repairs needed due to their “expertise” and my “irregularities”…

      • That’s infuriating. Isn’t dealing with “irregularities” part of their job? This was a scheduled procedure, not an emergency where they had to get the tube in as fast as possible.

        • Yes, it is infuriating. Yes, it is part of their job. As I mentioned – no one examined me prior to taking me back to surgery other than to ask if I had any neck issues and to have me stick out my tongue. I have had previous surgeries, and intubations, with no issues whatsoever.

          I am crafting my response to the “letter”.

  9. What a nightmare. I am so sorry you had to suffer like that, Katy and so needlessly! I can’t imagine why a person would go into such a profession when they obviously aren’t doing it because they want to help take care of people.

    This is why I want to be a nurse, the only reason really. I’ve had a few bad experiences coming out of surgeries. I would say my nurses were 50/50, some went above and beyond while others would actually get angry at me when I would buzz them for something important. Once I was holding my baby and started throwing up (was trying to breastfeed right after the c-section) so I buzzed the nurse (who had left me alone) and she actually was irritated! I mean, c’mon! It’s your JOB! I know you know this more than anyone else. And we all know nurses get paid very well. It’s not like I’m at a McDonald’s drivethru complaining about my Big Mac. I was throwing up on my baby for god’s sake. I’ve also had loads of incredible nurses who literally helped me recover faster because of their kindness and compassion. One nurse in particular took care of my newborn son for the night (he had stomach surgery when he was 6 weeks old) and I will never forget her help.

    Anyway, enough about my experiences. I am so sorry you had to go through that. To be in the state you were in and so helpless, it really burns me up.

    • Darla – the nursing profession welcomes you with open arms. I know I’ve shared with you one of my favorite parts of nursing is getting to know people and their “back-stories”. I love that part. But I know nurses who cannot stand having patients who can talk – they want theirs on a ventilator, drugged to the teeth, and uncomplaining, non-demanding.

      Izzy spoke above about feeling childlike and helpless as a patient – dependant on caregivers for everything from moral support to pain relief (or even oxygen delivery). The best nurses recognize and respect those feelings. A gentle touch and soothing words are the best tools. (A syringe full of dilaudid is also good). The worst are irritated by your every request for comfort or attention.

      You are going to be one kick-ass nurse – I just know it.

  10. I was hoping this was a fictional story, but unfortunately it was all too real. This was so vivid, at times, I felt like I couldn’t breathe while reading it. Speedy recovery.

    • Thanks, Speaker. Because of my incisions, I have had to avoid your recent posts. When I feel I can do a full-on belly laugh, I’ll drop back by your place…

  11. Oh Katy, this was a frightening read. I am so sorry. I hope you are on the mend now, am glad you had some real angels in your corner despite the demons.

    I have regular minor surgery for pain regulation. I call it surgery because I am put under anesthesia, though only walking about anesthesia. It is always dangerous for me as I am epileptic, we always have such great fun.

  12. Margie

    What an unhappy experience! My husband was recently in the hospital after a motorcycle accident, and though I think he got pretty good treatment overall, I was really glad our daughter, a nurse, was by his side in emergency.
    Over the course of his stay, we met some wonderful nurses, and some nurses that made us wonder why they entered the profession!

    • I read about his accident and hospitalization. I hope he continues to improve rapidly. It helps to have a knowledgeable advocate by your side and I’m glad your daughter was there.

  13. Riveting reading. Too bad it was true and is true for many people. Childlike and dependent on the medical staff, whom you hope are having a good day while under your care.
    I’ve always said – NO ONE should EVER be in the hospital or have a procedure alone. NEVER. And hopefully your family member doesn’t have issues with questioning authority when something is not right and you know it!
    It’s also a balancing act. You don’t want to piss off the nurse or tech who is attending to you, yet, if you can’t speak for yourself, that’s the scariest place of all, and where someone has to be your voice.
    I’m glad you are on the mend. I’m glad you will be sure the right people get the feedback they need to hear.
    God-speed in your continued recovery!

    • Thanks, Tar. You are right – no one should have a procedure or be in the hospital alone. And you are also right about there being a balancing act. You have the right to adequate and appropriate care. You do not have the right to order your nurse around like a server in a chain restaurant. A little appreciation and manners DO GO A LONG WAY. Not speaking up until you are discharged or until the patient survery gets completed – really isn’t the most productive way to complain about care or treatment. But things don’t change if you don’t speak out.

      Eat a lobster for me…I can’t eat much of anything yet. Living through others….vicariously. If you are really going to do it in my honor, though, you will dribble some butter on your blouse.

  14. What a harrowing experience. Not being able to breathe can make anyone panic. I’m so glad you were all right. As hard as the story is, it’s well written and well-paced.

  15. This was so real and so raw. I don’t know how you wrote it so soon after what was obviously a painful (in every way) experience. It’s one thing to go through something like that as “just a patient,” but to be a nursing professional and know the standards by which these colleagues should measure up to (or exceed)…well, that must be a whole different level of disappointment and pain.

    You’re a strong woman to have gone through what you did and to have written about it so poignantly. Every ounce of healing energy I have in me goes out to you, Katie.

    • Thank you, Lorna, for the kind words and healing energy. I wanted to capture the feelings and thoughts while they were fresh. While it was painful to relive and tortuous to write, it was strangely therapeutic.

  16. omawarisan

    Happy you got through. Scary how a cross section of our peers can provide such a range of performance.

    What a great read this was!

    • Thanks, Oma. I think if you took a cross-section of any profession you would see a broad spectrum of aptitude, attitude, dedication, and abilities. I am committed to making my profession better – one nurse at a time (or in the case of my students – one classroom at a time).

  17. Wow. I am still trying to catch my breath, and I have not had surgery.
    Holy smokes, Katy. Seriously. My heart is racing. The fact that you woke up to find yourself with a breathing tube down your throat. How does one NOT wake up in a panic when realizing such a thing? Wow.

    This story scared me. I hate to think of you going through this – yet I know you are not alone in this sort of experience, and that fact breaks my heart.

    My sister is a nurse. Having worked for several years in a hospital, she is now working as a school nurse. (Easier clientele.) The stories the two of you could share with each other…

    I am so glad you are on the mend. I hope the spams subside. Wow. You wrote this very well, and my heart goes out to you. Still, I hope you know what I mean when I say, “I didn’t like this post.”


    • The tube was scary – and has been one of my long-standing nightmares for many years. I remember that your sister is a nurse – I’ll bet she loves being a school nurse.

      And it’s okay. Although I wrote it, and I’m proud of it, I can’t say that I really “like” this post, either.

  18. Deborah the Closet Monster

    I can’t quite figure out what to say to you, having read this, so for the moment I’ll simply say I shared it with this note:

    Katy is a nursing instructor who recently had to spend time in the hospital herself. Some of her nurses were excellent. Some, not so much. ALL the pieces of this post remind me how big those little moments we spend with others might actually be to them, off the job and on it.

    I wish all medical practitioners would know how much those little moments mean. But, you know, even outside the practice of medicine . . . I wish we heard, saw and reached out more.

    I don’t love that you had some of the experiences behind it, but I love this post.

    • That is the part I want to impress upon my students. Every word, every touch, every eye-roll or sigh is conveyed to someone who wants and needs you to be at your very best, at all times. Is that even possible? No, but we can do a lot better.
      Even in our everyday lives – each word, each action – means something to the ones we share them with. I agree – I wish we heard, saw and reached out more.

  19. Oh Katy, I’m so sorry. What an awful experience, such a nightmare. This is a beautifully written post and it shows your passion for your fellow nurses and fellow patients. I hope your recovering is coming along quickly!!

    • Yes, Audrey, the recovery is coming along. I am trying to do a little more each day – and the breathing gets better each day, as well. Once in awhile I’ll have a spasm that makes it hard for me to inhale, but it passes quickly and I just keep going.

      Thanks for coming by.

  20. Jeez, Katy! I’m so sorry to hear of your ordeal. Also so pleased that you will be specific and name names for the good AND the bad. It’s so true that, in most people’s minds, the nurses ARE the hospital.

    Hope you’re continuing to get better every day.

  21. Sorry you had to go through that experience but it will be invaluable to your students. Commenters are correct when they say not everyone has the capacity to do an evaluation of their care, but most people know when they feel like the people tending to them care about them. Nurses are really the make or break point for most people in a hospital experience. They are the patient advocates and when they aren’t up to snuff the patient truly suffers for it. Glad to hear you are recovering. Did you ever ask the surgeon if he got reports of your “bad” readings as well as the good ones?

  22. I read a memoir written by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor about her time recuperating from a devastating stroke. I believe she was a neurologist, so she had been on both sides of the bed so to speak.
    She wrote about similar experiences with the hospital health care professionals – some wonderful and some terrible. Sometimes it seemed to her that because she couldn’t talk or respond to them, she wasn’t taken seriously. She wrote that she realized each doctor or nurse was responsible for the energy they brought into the room. Good observation for health care and for life, I think!
    If you haven’t read that book, you might be interested in it.
    Glad that you’re on the mend!

  23. K8, I don’t know how or why I missed this post. As I read it, I kept hoping you were going to tell me it was a dream. I’m so sorry you went through so much, and I’m so glad you’re home and getting well. I wish I could say more that was meaningful.

    • I don’t know how I missed your Freshly Pressed, either.

      Yes, I’m home feeling better and getting ready to return to work. I wrote a long letter to the anesthesiologist – and he called me and invited me to his office to discuss the issues. I declined – he’s 2 hours away, but we did have a great, productive phone conversation, and he’s promised to institute some changes to procedures for people whose breathing tubes get left in. I will meet with my surgeon on Tuesday, and I have a list of recommendations for him, as well.

  24. I’m late to catching up with your story, Katy and am appalled…but not surprised at your story. I seriously agree with your comment about having a healthcare advocate if needing hospitalization. I acted as advocate for my father before he passed away several years ago and do so with my mother now for doctor’s appointments, and for past hospitalizations. My father was a stickler for asking questions about any procedure and all medications that were ever given him. He had one last trip to the ER shortly before he died and was given a medication that was contraindicated for someone with heart disease…which he had…he collapsed in my mother’s arms shortly after receiving the medication and had to be resuscitated. I’m guessing that giving wrong medications is not a rare occurrence.

    I’m very sorry to hear of your experience and am glad to hear that you are on the mend. You have managed to keep your sense of humor throughout, in spite of your medication-induced-brain-fog, sleepiness and pain…bless your heart.

  25. Ginger Stevens

    Wow… just wow. And I have to have surgery at the end of the month.

  26. It pains me to read of your experience, but does not surprise, unfortunately. I am also a nurse, and as difficult as it is to write and to read, these are issues that need to be known. As with any profession, not everyone chooses the occupation most suited for them, but in healthcare, it is your life, and your human dignity in their hands. You become vulnerable, and it is your nurse who is there to advocate and protect. I am at a loss for words–you can’t teach compassion and common sense. No workshop on communication will help in a case like this. I’m sorry for your experience, and thankful for the good nurses as well.

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