Friday, August 22, 2008

Hospital Experience

I went into the hospital because my parents insisted. But the hospital care did not offer anything I felt was valuable.

I woke up that Thursday morning unable to properly control most of the right side of my body. My right arm, especially, was completely unable to move, and my right leg, though it was able to help hold me up when standing, could not move very much. We went in to UVRMC emergency room, which is a far piece to drive, but the nearest large hospital.

After some checking in routine, which I do not remember too well, they gave me a room with a bed that I did not care for. I spent several days laying on that bed, unable to turn or move much. Difficult to imagine more uncomfortable way to spend your time. Perhaps it is convenient for the nurses or something. It wasn't worth a thing to me.

They provided nurses that I did not want or need.

Some of them even made derogatory remarks about me. When I could not get to the bathroom, one of them said I was a fat pig for peeing the bed. He apparently believed that I had done so on purpose, perhaps to make things difficult for them. Admittedly, I am a fat pig, but that had no relevance to the problem, and doesn't seem to be my fault. I was already feeling very bad, but when I overheard that comment, I just wanted to crawl and hide.

None of the doctors offered to explain what was happening to me, which I still am not very clear about, but several of the nursing staff took it upon themselves to give a long and detailed lecture about how difficult I was making it for them by forcing them to clean up when I could not make it to the bathroom. Basically, they made it known that I was not worth taking care of, and they really did not want me there. That feeling of being where I was not wanted was strongly reinforced until I left. I did not get the impression that any of them were anxious to help me.

The hospital forced me to wear a monitor that continually watched to see if my heart was behaving itself. It did so without any monitoring whatever. I thought the device was troublesome, but the nursing staff acted like I would shrivel up and die instantly without it.

I was plugged into an IV the whole time I was there. I don't know why. They never explained to me,just kept pumping in more stuff. The IV hookup made it difficult for me to move around, which quickly became uncomfortable, and finally insufferable. I resorted to locking myself in the bathroom to escape,

Some of the care nurses were nice, but mostly they were rather indifferent. Two of them stood discussing what to do about my problem with urinary incontinence as if I wasn't even there. Finally they settled on fitting me with an adult diaper, which did not help the problem, and made me feel much worse.

The doctors came and went. Dozens of them, I think. Mostly I think they did not even bother to talk to me. At least I don't remember.

They would order drugs, therapy, and treatment for me without even taking the time to speak to me about it. I am charged for thousands in services and treatment, and I don't even remember receiving them.

At one point thay gave me a CT scan. I do remember getting that. Apparently, it did not show anything interesting. Another wasted procedure that the hospital bills thousands of dollars for.

Some stroke patients also get another kind of brain scan routinely. The doctors skipped it for me, after they found out that I don't have medical insurance. Was it economizing or discrimination? I don't know, but my suspicions were raised after other similar experiences. My experience leads me to believe that doctor's health care decisions are strongly influenced by whether they think the subject has insurance that will pay for things that are not wanted or needed, just to run up the bill.

The bottom line seems to be that people with good health insurance NEED good care. The rest of us should just feel lucky that we get anything.

My parents finally brought me back to their home after three nightmare days and nights at the hospital. More than anything else, I just wanted to die. The hospital is the most miserable place I have ever spent time. I hope I can end my life cleanly and not spend time malingering in such an awful place. And I will certainly never feel good about the money they charge for the services. Good health care, it seems, is only available to those who can pay a lot. Every one else presumes on someone else's good will. It may or may not show up.

I hope you never end up in the hospital. It is a terrible place for sick people.

Next installment:  Helping and Being Helped


Jim Cobabe said...

I have the impression, though no proof of the fact that people who work at "for charity" hospitals and care facilities treat their patients differently when they know that the patient is not fully insured, even though they themselves are not paid any different for their work. It is the hospital that ostensibly absorbs the cost for such patient care. In any case, IHC claims other benefits to their business, on the basis that they treat everyone regardless of ability to pay. I saw no evidence that they offer the same service to indigent patients, and every indication was that people resented my asking for the same health care services as someone whose insurance would pay for all.

It appears that certain hospital employee find out that you are requesting charitable service, and they take it upon themselves to let you know just how wonderful and righteous they are, simply for putting up with the likes of me. I agree that I may not be the most engaging patient in the world, but it bothers me a lot that paid employees seem totake it upon themselves to see to it that I am properly grateful.

I will not happily submit to such treatment, ever again. Not from hospital people, not from doctors, not from anyone.

Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

At the risk of sounding like a bleeding heart liberal, I think that this is perhaps the greatest travesty of our modern era. In the United States, ostensibly the greatest country in the universe, and certainly the richest, there are people who live every day in fear that something will happen to their health. Why is this?

John McCain says that it's a market thing. Very nice to hear. Meanwhile, it costs my employer $21K per year to ensure me and my family, of which we will use about $1K. Personally, I would rather have the cash to pay for other things.

Obama's ideas don't thrill me, either. But there's something wrong with insurance companies and HMOs (Health Maintenace Organization?!? What does that mean, anyway?) dictate how much and what kind of health care you recieve, often at odds with professionals who really know what your body needs.

There is a spurious argument about "why would anyone want to be a doctor if they weren't paid so well?" which I find particularly nefarious. If it came down to it, I would rather have the guy who was in it because he genuinely loves people and the practice (!) of medicine rather than the folks you ran into who were obviously only in it for money and can only think about how you are interrupting thier golf game. In fact, like you note, I would rather NOT have care from these folks.

My wife worked for a company that routinely gave care to folks who were not able to pay. If Youngshin felt that a patient needed 20 visits, but medicare would only pay for 15, her company would still pay her for the 20 visits she recommended. Sure, the company was making plenty of money. But little things like that demonstrate an attitude towards health care that is as refreshing as it is obscure. Further, Youngshin always, ALWAYS, took the time to share some of herself with her patients. She genuinely loved and respected the people she served and often would come home with miraculous stories about some of the people she had met and helped, and who in turn had helped her.

Because at the end of the day, it's all about people. People serving and loving others. Youngshin always treated a person, not a condition or ailment or disease. Too often, health care professionals forget that you are a person with feelings and desires and needs that extend beyond the treatment of whatever the ailment of the month is. It's a shame.

Jim Cobabe said...

If a fair share of health care entitlements is the issue, I suppose I used up mine a long time ago.

On my "going nuts" and suicide jaunt, the doctors and hospitals billed my insurance for nearly half-million. I don't know what the dollar value of my remaining alive, but I think that might be overstating it. I thought I would never need such expensive health care again. I was wrong.

Although I misjujuged, I still think the latest episode was mismanaged and overcharged. I hope enough people will complain about such poor care that it will be reformed.

We all deserve better. Especially sick people.

Brian said...

Don't forget Jim. I was there the entire time, praying for the first time since I was probably 16, that the one thing I have left of my father would stay with me. If those nurses were saying something they shouldn't ... remember at my wedding, when Jason was giving his all too long speech as the best man, saying I'm the first to throw down in a fight for my family? I'll come up there and beat those nurses silly if ever again they say anything remotely close to you being a fat pig. I will be you 20 years from now, and if someone calls me a fat pig, I'll beat them ... and then sit on them ... and then maybe urinate on them as well, and say "Oops, it was an accident".

I will protect my family to the death, and if ever you need me, I'm always here for you. I told you in the hospital, I told you and the house, I consider you Dad # 2, going through the mountains with you, even if I sat silent some of the time (well .. most of the time) it meant so much to me to be able to be with such an amazing person. I can't believe how smart you are, I promise I promise I brag about you weekly, that I have the smartest uncle in the world.

Get on Jeapordy damn it, win a million, and then you can sit back, or continue doing what you're doing, without the worries of finances. I have nothing but faith in you, screw hospitals, they suck anyways

Jim Cobabe said...


I harbor a little bit of ill will for the hospital people and the doctors. I still am convinced that they didn't do right by me, although it seems to matter little to them. Nothing much will come of it, I suppose. I don't know why I should even care, I guess, except that they charge such an extravagant price for such abysmal service. I could have stayed for six weeks in a first-class hotel for a lot less money, and if the servants did not like me, at least they would feel some obligation to keep their mouth shut.

Oh, well. Another educational experience, I guess.