Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sandwich with a Pickle on the Side – Part 2

Thus began a 10-day ordeal. I stayed with her 8 to 10 hours per day, trying to connect with the many doctors they brought in to her see. What I learned was that in the hospital, doctors don't make appointments. They come at their convenience, stay less than five minutes, and leave. Since Sis was heavily sedated with pain meds and her hubby needed to work, if I wasn't there no one had no idea what was going on. Thus began a LONG game of hurry up and wait. 

She kept complaining of abdominal pain, but no one would pay attention to us. She wasn’t there for an abdominal problem. They just wanted to find the cause of the sores, which were huge, deep, painful, and confusing. Finally, more to shut me up than because he believed he’d find something, the hospitalist ordered an abdominal CT scan. Much to his surprise, it showed that her aorta was blocked from about waist level to mid-thigh level. Both legs. The first we heard of this was when the vascular surgeon, who had previously declared, “It’s not vascular. Nothing for me here.” popped into the room and declared, “I’m doing a bypass.” Say what? 

They decided to run some more scans. Meanwhile, the hospitalist with whom we had developed a relationship went off duty and we got a new one. Someone who had no history with her and no relationship. Since her chart now measured in the hundreds of pages, he wasn’t really up to speed on the case. But he popped in and just as glibly stated, “No surgery. She has more blockages.” When I finally got him to slow down and explain the problem, he drew a picture (very helpful) of all the known blockages and clots in her body. Because of the locations, the vascular guy who had planned the surgery reneged. Therefore, they were going to discharge her to the nursing home and have her come back after three to six months on blood thinners for reconsideration. Assuming she was alive by then. I asked for a second opinion from a list of vascular surgeons I had obtained. The hospitalist informed me that he was the second opinion. Period. 

They kept her another couple of days, then moved her back to the nursing home where she got wound care and blood thinners, but no PT. The nursing home called in various pain management specialists, who kept tweaking (read: increasing) her meds. They had her so drugged she barely knew her name. The staff was wonderful. I could talk to the charge nurse several times per week, and even the doctor at times. But she wasn’t improving. They tried anything they could get insurance authorization for, but were turned down for some treatments that had potential value, like hyperbaric. Simply dealing with the insurance at this point became time- and energy-consuming. (To be continued tomorrow...)

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Deedoucette

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