I spent time in the hospital recently. It was short. Only one night, but it gave me perspective on what should or shouldn’t happen in a hospital. I walked away a little wiser and thought I would share the lessons learned.
I’m not a doctor, nurse or hospital technician so this is not intended as medical advice. I’m speaking as a patient and you don’t need any qualifications to be a patient.
My sinuses were blocked and had been for a very long time. The solution was to remove polyps and, of course, reconstruct the septum. The procedure is done under general anesthetic but is considered minor surgery. Many people go home the same day, but in my case, the infection/blockage was worse than the scans indicated and my nasal/sinus passages weren’t easy to navigate which means the op took a little longer and was more invasive than usual.
Make no mistake, though, major or not this op is personal. Proverbially speaking, it’s in your face.
Following the surgery, both nostrils are plugged with long pieces of gauze to stanch the blood flow which in best case scenarios is removed within a few hours. Mine stayed the night.
Have you ever tried swallowing with your nasal passages blocked? Not very comfortable. It’s like sucking liquid through a bent straw.
But that’s not all. Adding insult to injury is the fact that a piece of gauze is folded and taped under your nose to catch any blood that might escape. Sounds harmless till you look in the mirror.
Your expression is skewed badly. The gauze covers most of your nose and upper lip. Whatever messages those facial features provide are hidden, leaving only a sinister appearance that says, “I’m a serial killer and you’re next!”
Trying to smile behind the mask only makes it worse.
Any bleed-through made the appearance even more threatening, and I had bleed-through. It explains why hospital staffers gave me a wide berth.
Change Dressing Please
Because blood was leaking, I needed a couple of dressing changes within the first few hours. Not the plugs, just the external gauze. That was a little unexpected. Patients don’t usually bleed so much but it is possible.
Nursing staff are supposed to be on the lookout. In fact, it should be automatic but they paid little attention to my gauze until I asked.
It could be problematic because bleeding following this surgery occurs near and naturally flows toward your windpipes. If it happens in a deep sleep you may not wake up.
It wasn’t too long after the first change that the dressing needed attention a second time. I didn’t have to ask because the gauze was soaked.
Normally patients go home the same day but I bled a little too profusely so it was one night in the hospital for me. Bummer.
Food Service Please
If you can eat soon after surgery, it’s a good indication there are no leftover effects from the anesthetic.
The good news was I was ravenous – 16-plus hours since my last meal. The bad news was I returned to my room just after lunch service. I wanted to eat and I knew my lunch tray was hovering somewhere but I had to ask for it not once but twice. By the time the tray arrived it was quite cold. I ate it anyway.
The surgery left me feeling a bit parched so I wanted coffee and water right away. My wife organized the coffee (thank you very much) but I needed water also. We were thinking water jugs should be standard supply but, again, I had to ask for water, and I was surprised by what I got. I was hoping for the jug but all I got was a glass about the size of two shots. It was nicely presented, with ice and a sprig of herb, but I had to ask again, making sure I got a jug.
I also had to call the nurse every time the jug needed refilling.
Help With The Bed Please
Because there was a concern about bleeding into my windpipes, I had to sleep in an upright position. Sleep is a generous way to put it. There wasn’t much of that for me, but what made it worse was the pressure sitting upright placed on my lumbar. I was in constant pain, hurting at both ends.
Hospital beds are designed for such occasions. The head and foot move up and down. In fact, there is a combination of placements for every part of the bed.
The problem was when my back pain started, I wasn’t sure how to arrange things to get relief and, unfortunately, hospital staff didn’t seem to be interested. On arrival, they showed me the control and how it worked but I had no idea what was coming or how to manipulate the controls for relief. You need to be a physio to understand these things.
Not one staffer, knowing I was locked in an upright position, asked about my back or if they could help.
It was also difficult to play with the settings in the middle of the night. The mechanism made a racket and I didn’t want to disturb roomies if they were actually sleeping. I did figure it out but by then the sun was rising.
Check Bed Bottles Please
With an IV in my arm, I couldn’t get up and go to the loo, but not to worry, the hospital provides bed bottles that conveniently hang on the bed rail. Easy to reach and easy to use, mostly.
The problem is the more you drink the more you need the bottle and following surgery, you’re encouraged to drink a lot.
I used my bottle frequently and it didn’t hold that much, only 900ml.
Checking these bottles periodically should be routine, but staffers came and went through the night without looking or asking. If I didn’t ring the bell, my bottle would have been overflowing and in fact, at one point I had an oops.
Handy Wipes Please
Now imagine, you’re in a hospital bed all night without sleep. You’re chugging water constantly and using your bottle often. All of that is understood. What is also obvious is the fact that if you can’t get up to use the loo, you also can’t get up to wash your hands.
My mother taught me to never leave the loo without washing my hands and I’m sure that is protocol for most. But in this case, you’re bed bound. What are you gonna do? The answer is simple. Use handy wipes.
Admittedly that is something patients can supply themselves but I didn’t. I wasn’t even expecting to stay overnight so the thought never occurred. And when I realized I needed them it was too late.
It should be standard for hospitals to supply some way for patients to wash their hands. It’s a hospital. Germs are everywhere. Anything to reduce the load, like washing hands, should be a priority.
But it wasn’t. A few people were surprised when I refused to shake hands because mine were soiled. They acted like I was strange. No worries. My Momma would be proud!
With an aching back and a fear of bleeding, I couldn’t sleep but even if my situation were better, sleep wasn’t an option. The noise was deafening. The ward bell rang incessantly and it sounded like gurney races up and down the hall.
I casually commented to one staffer that it sounded busy the night before and she said “yea, there were a couple of emergency cases” which explained the activity and the noise, but it made me wonder.
I don’t begrudge anyone medical attention, especially when it involves an emergency, but why are emergencies handled in such close proximity to existing patients. It didn’t make sense. I don’t doubt an “excuse” would be offered if anyone asked but this needs to change. Emergencies happen all the time. There needs to be some kind of separation.
All Patients Are Equal Please
I was in a three-bed suite. Only two were occupied, but my roomie was a very interesting person: an ex-professional athlete and he oozed with people skills. He was the kind of person who could tell you to soak your head and not only would you do it happily and immediately, but you would think it the smartest thing you’d ever done!
He had the hospital staff eating out of his hand. They couldn’t check on him enough. I’m not exaggerating when I say they spent huge amounts of time visiting and chatting with him and his family. I jokingly told his wife she should be jealous.
He was still recreationally active in several sports, one of which was cycling. We had long chats about the various races we’d both ridden, cycling equipment and more.
But here’s the complaint. The staffers, who visited him regularly, didn’t even know I was there. I kept my curtain closed since I was frequently using the bottle (I’m sure you can understand) but I couldn’t miss their checks on my roomie with absolutely no awareness I existed.
More than once I had to uh-hum the visiting staffer to have one or the other thing checked before they left the room.
A Smooth Pre-Admission Please
My wife and I have used four different hospitals in our area. In most cases, pre-admission was a breeze, one visit to the admissions department was sufficient. Hospital personnel contacted the necessary people, obtained needed documentation and sorted everything out, but not this time.
Admission personnel keyed some personal details and left out some. They needed my height and weight but never asked for it. The only thing they did was call insurance to ask what other information was needed. I could have done that.
They did nothing to obtain any documents! I guess they expected me to get a doctor to verify my height and weight. Not sure the insurance would pay for that appointment.
I honestly walked away thinking they were going to get everything sorted. That is what happened in every other hospital. My bad!
Looking back, I admit I should have followed up, especially since I knew from experience that staffers at this hospital never do anything they don’t have to, but I didn’t. I was quite busy at the time and assumed everything was taken care of. As a result, my admission and the sorely needed procedure were delayed a week.
Honestly, every time we have anything to do with this hospital (6 visits between us) I promise to never go back. The problem is there are some really great doctors who work here so it isn’t always easy to avoid.
I’m glad it’s over. I’m even more glad I survived.
I guess it’s obvious that I have an attitude about this hospital but it developed over a very long history. But complaints aside, I must say that I am grateful every day for medical science, doctors who practice, facilities in which they can practice and the long list of staffers and technicians who keep things running smoothly.
I’m still alive and feeling much better. Thanks all round.