*Surviving a Hospital Stay*
I recently was released after almost three months in hospitals for congestive heart failure. After open-heart surgery to replace my leaking mitral valve and perform a double by-pass; I found myself in acute renal failure requiring kidney dialysis. Not fun. I even had to learn how to walk all over again, after being in bed for such a long time.
Here are some observations based upon my personal experience.
Do not trust the nurses and doctors to provide the best of care. As a diabetic, my oral medications are time sensitive to when food is eaten. Breakfast was served in the middle of the nurse shift change, and I had to constantly seek to obtain my meds in a timely manner. Their response was “we have a two hour window” hospital policy to provide the meds. That may be hospital policy, but that ignores the time sensitive nature of oral diabetic meds. Finally, they made sure to get me the meds before breakfast so I could take it at the right time.
One of my meds is an injectable, Byetta. This is not insulin (although most nurses thought it was). It needs to be refrigerated and used approximately 60 minutes to 30 minutes prior to eating. It reduces the appetite (side benefit for being overweight) as well as slows down the digestive process. This reduces the potential for a blood sugar spike after eating. Although I have been taking this for more than two years, the hospital was unable to supply this drug and I had to bring my own supply. By the way, this comes from the spit of the Gila lizard. Isn’t nature interesting?
The doctor put me on respiratory treatment twice a day. After about five days, it stopped. I asked why and the nurse told me that the doctor had not renewed the order for it. The hospital has a policy that these orders must be re-written every five days (in the middle of this they suddenly changed it to fifteen days). I immediately contacted the doctor who told me he thought it was automatically renewed. From my standpoint, this is total confusion. (Just imagine if this were a SHTF situation!)
As an aside, I should point out that the nurses were certainly professional, courteous and kind. Just completely overworked. It would help if more “patient care assistants” were provided to ease the nursing shortage (caused by hospital cutbacks). The obvious cause of the nursing shortage was quite clear when I received the bill for about four weeks at this one hospital (I was in three.). They charged a little over $185,000. My insurance (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) paid a little of $19,000 in full payment. Could you imagine if I didn’t have insurance? How hospitals stay in business when they treat illegal immigrants who can’t pay or only receive 10-11% of the bill from insurance companies as full payment is beyond me. I guess that’s why they overcharge patients who have no insurance and have to hock their house or file for bankruptcy.
Patients who are lucid, or if not, their families, must pay attention to the treatment they receive. Are you getting the right meds and at the appropriate time if the med is time sensitive? I feel sorry for those who cannot do what I did in obtaining my meds at the right time.
One recommendation is to always have a complete list of the medications you are taking, the strength (dosage), when you take it and the doctor who prescribed the drug. Being prepared, I was able to provide every hospital and doctor with a complete printed list of what meds I was taking.
Another recommendation is to have an updated will, an updated living will and an updated power of attorney. You should also make a list of all your financial assets (bank accounts, IRA’s, stocks, bonds, etc.) and make sure your family knows where they are. If nothing else, it gives you peace of mind when you are facing a serious health crisis.
Probably the most important thing I can urge you to do to survive a hospital stay is to have a strong religious belief and faith system. I do not believe it truly matters which specific religion, but it certainly has been shown that, at least for open-heart surgery patients, there is a 33-35% faster healing and survival rate for those patients who have a strong spiritual belief. Prayer does work.
I certainly was the object of prayers by family and friends, Christian, Catholic, Jewish, and even Muslim. I believe I am here today because God heard those prayers.
Let me share with you these facts relative to a religious belief perspective.
From one hospital I was sent to another to test out certain drugs (one of which is only available at a hospital with a children’s ward – nitrous oxide or laughing gas). It turned out that I had pulmonary hyper-tension which needed to be substantially reduced before I could undergo surgery. Believe it or not, there is one other drug that was originally designed for this problem, a vascular dilator drug, but which is sold for a very different use due to a discovered side effect. I was on 100mg of Viagra, three times a day before I was transferred to the other hospital.
The cardiologist informed me I would probably be there for three days while they tried to reduce my pulmonary hyper-tension. While I was on this stainless steel gurney in the operating room to have the cardiac procedure done with different drugs to be used, the priest came in, at my request, for an annointing of the sick. Right after this, the cardiac procedure began and in literally one hour, my pressure had become normal. Within three hours, not three days, I was being transferred to the hospital where I would have my surgery done.
Another fact in my personal situation. On December 26, the cardiologist did not like how I looked and decided to do another cardiac procedure and had me brought to the operating room. While in the operating room, my mitral valve, which had been leaking, completely failed. My life was saved only because the cardiologist was there, in the operating room, with the nurses, techs and equipment so that an immediate procedure could be done. Had I been upstairs in the hospital bed, or if the cardiologist had not been there, I would not be here today.
Now, you can call this a lucky coincidence if you want, but I will then sell you this bridge in Brooklyn and you can even put Gov. Corzine’s tolls on it!
I remember very little from the afternoon of December 26th to when I awoke from an induced coma on January 9th. I underwent a nine hour surgery to replace my mitral valve with one made of titanium and a double by-pass.
When I awoke, the only thing I could vividly remember was a “dream” of looking up from my hospital bed and seeing two angels at the foot of my bed. One was most beautiful, bathed in the whitest light I had ever seen. Another was just as beautiful, wearing shiny armor and had a fiery sword in his hand. The calm I felt at remembering this “dream” is indescribable. The “angel of light” was easily identified as Lucifer; the “angel in armor” was Michael. Faith and belief are beautiful.
One final note. After undergoing seven kidney dialysis procedures, I was released from the hospital where I had surgery to return to the original hospital for further treatment. Within one week, my kidney functions had returned to normal and no further dialysis would be required.
Today (March 19) I saw the cardiologist and he reviewed my most current blood work. His response? Absolutely normal! He even stopped some of the drugs I have been taking.
Was I the recipient of God’s Blessing? I believe so. And so does my doctor.
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