BLOG: Patient Care: What I’ve Learned and Tips For a Healthier You!
No doubt, from the young age of seven to most recent hospitalizations, I have had numerous post-traumatic health scares and patient care experiences all of which have led me to where I am today. I am an author/blogger and columnist on Advancements in Breast Cancer Solutions, Women’s Health and Lingerie and a Fashion Designer for Post-Surgical Intimate Apparel. I’ve learned a lot through the years and it has been this experience that makes me think about what I’ve learned and how improvements can be made for you and me.
When contending with new health diagnosis, we always seek the best in patient care. But sometimes things don’t always go as planned. What I realized most recently is that as a patient we can’t expect the unexpected, and sometimes we may place high standards on our medical experts, but they just don’t have all the answers. We put our trust in them to offer top notch results. When that does not happen, we may seek second and third opinions and alternative solutions and advice. I know that I have become quite knowledgeable about many medical topics over the years and with my recent incident, it seems as though I was an expert in none.
In a short period of time, I became persistent to find the solutions to a troubling medical ailment -- determined to obtain the proper tests, ultrasounds, labs, for ultimately, the best health results and overall treatment. I did obtain this eventually, but it wasn’t easy on my own. What I didn’t expect was to schedule much of this on my own, push back, confrontation and ridicule. I thought about ‘what if I didn’t know where to turn? Who to contact? Where would I be now? Still in dire pain and in worse shape or could I have been on the road to recovery sooner?’ I contemplated a lot with heavy decisions and determination to seek help. The unanswered questions were remarkable yet enlightening. I had suffered for many weeks and was being told my recovery would take a few days now we are looking at 3 – 9 more months in addition to the initial 2. I asked myself “how can that be?” Sometimes, we go in to the hospital with one issue and come out with others.
Without going into the many gory details, I obtained an abscess-like Seroma in my stomach, which became difficult to cure. This time around, the infection was not a bacterial infection such as MRSA or Cellulitis, however it had similar symptoms and related pain just the same. With a serious condition and a complicated one to heal, I have had to be extremely careful during this post-op recovery window. ‘Please don’t lift anything heavy, wear compression garments 24/7, rest as much as possible while trying to resume a normal life.’ Okay, the goal was to seal the stomach wall lining back together again to deplete all fluids without infection. Sounds easy but I was far from it. After experiencing 2 very painful months with six hospitalizations in six weeks involving OR post-op procedures of stomach catheterizations, needle aspirations, followed by edema and lymphedema, to name a few, I was exhausted. I went from “don’t do a thing” to “go ahead and resume normal activities” and that was the icing on the cake. This last statement implied; ‘we are done here and we can’t help you anymore’. In other words, ‘take two aspirins and see you in a month or so’ – yup, that was not the expected response after what I had been through these past few grueling months in patient care. And that was when I realized . . .
Needless to say, I am a well-educated woman who focuses on women’s health and wellness issues. I also have grown up in a family of physicians and have been surrounded by many Top Docs who have educated me on various health and wellness topics over the years. I take self-education upon myself and into my own hands, I drive the boat relentlessly to identify solutions to ensure the ultimate in best health care with the best end results for a healthier “me” and for “you” too. I enjoy sharing my experiences with others and this time was no different. What was different was the way in which I was treated and with what I saw and experienced firsthand. Complication after complication, I quickly learned patient care may not be top of mind on everyone’s plate.
Without backtracking and providing an entire medical scope or history I prefer to brief you on some recent astonishments as seen during doctor’s office visits to hospital ER room visits – all of which were despicable and discerning. The following examples raise awareness about our medical institution’s policies and overall cleanliness.
ER room non-sterile gurney was used during several OR surgical procedures
OR room nurses were without surgical masks and gloves
OR room nurses were on personal (non-sterile) cell phone, to call to hospital Pharmacy
Nurse assisting with an office surgical needle aspiration procedure wore no gloves, multiple times
Patient was advised to jump on/off gurney, walk in/out of ER room, to urinate in a public facility carrying germs back/forth into OR surgical room
G-diff test results were lost and frozen, realized 5 days later
Patient experienced HIPPA violation of privacy at home
Surgeon admitted to never experiencing these post-op problems before, communicated with others that they did not know how to handle this medical situation, which circled back to Patient as major concern.
Surgeon requested primary Doc order my scripts for further post-op diagnosis when he did not perform the original procedure and initially knew nothing about my case recovery
Surgeon shared unwanted condescending stories with Patient about other medical experiences to deflect concern and pain Patient was experiencing
Wrong compression garment was administered post-op, immediately causing Contusion, further infection and onset of Lymphedema and Edema
UTI bacterial infection caused from catherization
Allergic anti-infectant cleansing soap was used pos-surgically causing major skin infection
IV anti-biotic was administered that patient was allergic to causing both internal and internal skin infections
Patient later noticed front tooth chipped and broke post-op from OR administered anesthesia
Surgeons preferred surgical compression garment arrived two weeks late post-op causing the Seroma fluid build up and onset of many other medical ailments
Surgeon left on holiday not advising Patient whom to see during daily critical-care recovery. When advised, new Surgeon did not have patient medical file history and sent patient back to the ER for further eval and treatment.
New Surgeon had dog in private medical office. I was asked; “Do you like dogs?” “Well yes, but not now when your dog could knock out my catheter hanging from the middle of my stomach! Please do not let the dog in my exam room, thank you.”
Another Surgeon refused to administer an Ultrasound when Ablation was denied. This doc stormed out like a two-year old when the costly procedure was refused. Catheter fluids were depleted to 1-2ccs for 6 days straight – ablation was not needed.
Patient experienced unnecessary post-recovery with 6 hospitalizations, 2 stomach catheters, 6 needle aspirations, contusion, UTI infections, antibiotic and anti-infectant allergies, Seroma, Lymphedema, Edema and related complications from what was supposed to be a few days post-op treatment.
Patient missed work, holidays and business travel over long period of time.
Patient had to schedule/coordinate self medical appointments – Urology, Infectious Disease, Primary Doc on-going assessments, labs and ultrasounds too for integrated health and wellness.
With future concern of potential abscess or Cellulitis showing on one Ultrasound report, Surgeon claimed, “Radiologist didn’t know what they were reading when they wrote that.” Patient scheduled Infectious Disease self appointment to rule out bacterial infection and had asked several times for Surgeon to rule this out given severity of patient medical history.
Patient was ignored for UTI treatment until she sought treatment on her own for documented bacterial UTI 3 weeks post-op. When informing Surgeon that this was partially cause of ongoing pain, comment was made “you’ve had several UTIs in the past”. Medical clearance showed no history of recent UTI and no patient should not have to suffer.
Patients groin had numerous lumps across pelvic area – concern for DVTs and related issues. Patient sought care with D-dimer labs and ultrasound to rule out blood clots with ongoing limb edema and lymphedema.
Surgical medical notes were falsified with comments that patient denied certain medical XRay when it was clearly communicated by patient, and well documented by ER room and Radiology, there was Code Blue taking place, hence the reason for this XRay never being performed. Other falsified comments about Patient not wearing Compression Undergarments were also noted in those medical notes.
Patient experienced filthy ER room numerous times. An attendant told patient the room floors only get cleaned twice/year rather than weekly or more frequently in susceptible contagious environments.
Surgeon suggested patient seek pain management therapy – to better manage pain. True pain is not emotional and rational, real “pain is pain; anxiety is anxiety.” The difference is obvious. Was so wrong of Surgeon to blatantly suggest such when patient had endured so much throughout entire post-op experience.
The list of ridicule, inaccuracies and absurdities went on and on . . .
I try, time and time again, to make sense of the irresponsible things I heard and experienced and to-date can’t get my arms around it. I have to say this post-op experience tops all others. While I realize that this story does not depict today’s healthcare in a nutshell it was simply my recent experience, and ludicrous just the same. Yes, there are many things in life which need improvement but when patients seek healthcare, sterile environments, coordinated integrated healthcare, proper tests, reports and results, we expect and deserve the best! While I know I am not the only one who has had tragic medical experiences, my purpose is to raise awareness about patient care and to collaborate on overall healthcare improvements.
I have been grateful for my medical care over the years. I know that as a caring patient, mother and caregiver, Patient Care at our hospitals can take on improved precautions to eliminate the onset of further patient complications.
As a Breast Cancer patient, yes, I have experienced more than the norm with 4 years post-op complications and beyond. My medical awareness has brought new issues top of mind about overall preventative care and patient care. Patients should not have to coordinate their own post-op surgical Integrated Healthcare appointments, follow ups with Specialists, obtain, fax and communicate test results to one another, be treated disrespectfully, etc. I tend to look at healthcare as I would in business – coming together as a team is the beginning for success.
I’ve devised 10 strategies to provide patients with superior healthcare – tips from A to Z for a healthier you!
1. Start seeing patients as customers (collaboration).
2. Be courteous and respectful (provide excellent customer service).
3. Never show indifference to patients (all treated equally).
4. Don't contradict, argue or match wits (speak to patients, not at them and listen to their needs).
5. Tell patients you appreciate their business (value their concerns, perspectives and opinions).
6. Use plain terms and simple explanations (not wordy or condescending approaches).
7. Good manners will get you everywhere (social graces always).
8. Keep seeing healthcare as a calling (don’t put patient billing forefront).
9. Stay in touch with patients (Specialists and Primary Docs, follow up and post-recovery is key).
10. Keep your promises (build patient trust).
Whatever your surgical outcome, we can never predict one’s health and road to recovery. We can take many precautions and do our best, encourage our Top Docs and Medical Institutions to do better and insist on improvements, but at the end of the day, if we suffer, we can choose to dwell or make the most of it.
I share my story to help others learn to cope and to find that silver lining, to make a difference as I have throughout my medical journey. I encourage you to share your experiences and to write back (email@example.com). We all need to raise awareness for improved Healthcare and overall Patient Care. Wishing you all the best.
Jean Criss is an author, blogger, columnist, breast cancer survivor, expert in media and technology and new fashion designer for post-surgical intimate apparel. She also blogs for NY Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center Breast Care Management and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can preview the line here (https://crisscrossintimates.com/lookbook) and shop the Luxe Collection here (https://crisscrossintimates.com/shop-luxe-collection).