What Happened to Me

You last heard from me on Sunday as I recall. I had a doctor appointment on Monday morning to begin my cardiac rehab stuff, as a result of my latest heart attack about three weeks ago. I went over to the doctor in charge of the rehab thing (not my regular doctor but another one there in the clinic). He took one look at me and said 'no rehab right now; you have pneumonia in your lungs and we have to deal with that first.'

I knew I had _something_ still wrong with me when I came back from Jane Phillips Medical Center in Bartlesville, but I attributed it to continued weakness from the heart attack. I still had very labored breathing, (sort of an emphsezma/COPT condition) and was using oxygen when I slept at night. But I _assumed_ it was all under control. It now appears I had pneumonia when I was admitted to Jane Phillips; Mercy Hospital (here in Independence) had assumed I would stay in JP until all was cured; JP on the other hand wanted to first deal with my heart attack (and the stent they put in me) as the first priority, then they sent me back home figuring I would deal with the pneumonia on an outpatient basis with Mercy. All last week I was quite ill, although I continued doing Digest stuff namd 'making do' as best as I could. I _assumed_ things would get better.

I get over to Dr. Dykstra (cardiologist) and Dr. Higknight (his associate here) and although Dykstra thought that plan of action would be acceptable, Dr. Higknight flipped his lid -- literally -- was quite angry and said Bartlesville should have held me over and 'done the entire job right'. My personal doctor, Dr. Walker, was sort of neutral on the matter, but considering he is the 'low man on the totem pole' here in Independence (the new guy in town as I mentioned here a week or two ago) he went along with Dr. Higknight's beliefs. At the Monday morning meeting Higknight checked out my lungs and said "no way am I going to allow you to be in the rehab program right now! I am not going to 'walk' someone around in the rehab room down-stairs while they still have water in their lungs. In fact, I want you in the hospital _now_".

Then he apparently had second thoughts and decided it best not to simply override his associates (Dykstra or Walker [my physician]) and said to me to wait there a couple minutes. He left the room, went and found the two of them, brought them over to his examination area to have them look at me and prod me; they then all came to the consensus that yes, I should be immediatly back in the hospital; they called across the street to the hospital proper and told them to plan to admit me as an inpatient. I said let me go back home and finish up some work, I will return to tomorrow morning for treatment. "NO! they said, this is urgent, you are wheezing too hard, coughing and gagging and tomorrow may be too late." They brought a wheel chair there but I would not get in it. (There is an underground tunnel from the clinic area to across the street at the main hospital building; they had planned to wheel me across the street, apparently.) Since I would not ride in the wheel chair they made me at least promise to _immediatly_ walk across the street and check myself in. (Which I _mostly_ did; Monday was a warm pleasant day; unseen by the doctors and nurses in the clinic I sat on an outside bench in the parkway area and had a couple of my beloved cigarettes first _then_ I walked in the ER/inpatient entrance in a dignified way and reported to the intake desk. So Monday from about noon or 1 PM until today, Thursday morning, there I was, hooked up to an antibiotic intravenous machine intermittently and with a mask on my face and tubes in my nose, pumping liquid into me and suctioning snot and muccus out of me, along with a machine which would periodically pound my back around my lung area to loosen up whatever they found was still lodged in there. They also forced a lot of oxygen into my nose. Each day, Tuesday, Wednesday and today, Dr. Walker came around to probe me a bit more. Yesterday he said, "well you are sounding a lot better, if you continue sounding okay like this I will let you go home tomorrow." Apparently I did sound better because this morning he came around and said I was being discharged.

OB-TELECOM and MERCY HOSPITAL DATACOM: _Everything_ at Mercy Hospital is computerized. Everytime a human being came into my room to variously change the antibiotic bag or feed me some pills or pound my back or for that matter to dump my piss-pot urinal in the toilet they would make entries on a lap top computer they brought with them and plugged into a connection in my room. First thing they always did was plug in the computer, scan my wrist band, watch to see it pop up on the computer screen, then evaluate the medications the computer said were appropriate and scheduled. Then they would scan their own wrist band (to show who was administering what) and proceed to pop the pills into me or connect up the IV drip or whatever. Before they would even empty the urinal container they would note the numbers on the side, scan my arm band, etc. No paper charts, no manual records of any kind. Even Dr. Walker had to scan his ID card each time he came into my room when he would write his commentary there on his lap top. And of course, when they left the room, the lap top went with them. No reason to leave it there for patients -- or 'others' to be tempted by!

This being a small town, the hospital full time -- paid -- chaplain happens to by coincidence also be the (unpaid) priest at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany where I attend; so I had a good chance to pick his brains a bit about the computer and telephone system there. He said the main reason for having all the medications audited and tracked by the computer was because "The Sisters of Mercy out of St. Louis (hospital administrators) 'have had some problems in the past with missing medications, patient complaints, etc". He quite agreed the system was not fool-proof, but when it booted up in each patient's room it did present some sort of message from Microsoft about what it was doing, and he said among other things, it did remove the possibility of 'human error' in noting the administration of drugs to the patients, etc.

I asked him if it was possible the computer could mis-diagnose an illness or the amount or type of medication to dispense, he said it did not do that; "_anything_ it does requires human approval, it is not a computerized physician or pharmacist, mostly just an auditor of what the human beings around here do. 'St. Louis' gets all these records every day also automatically transmitted. 'Big Sisters' in St. Louis know what is going on here as soon as we know." How interesting. Every doctor's note, every pill given out, etc. Apparently even small town hospitals like ours have some 'big city' problems like drug abuse and 'evil-nurse' syndromes from time to time.

THE PHONE SYSTEM: Mercy Hospital's main switchboard is 620-331-2200. Patient rooms are all direct dial as 620-330-8xyz where X is the floor number, Y and Z are the bed number and room number. Those of you who called me called both ways: some via 331-2200 and asking the operator for me, others by the direct-to-room method. It is not a very large place, I suppose 50-60 patient rooms total. Lobby plus two floors of patient rooms, and basement with cafeteria, etc.

Not a single _wired_ phone where staff is concerned. Patient phones were wired, of course, but every staff person had a cellular phone. They called them 'hospital phones', and claimed they were on a different frequency than cellular; to me they just appeared to be cellular phones, and not their personal cells either. They would answer them _by their department name_ even when in patient rooms. On the roof of the main hospital building here and there I would see little antennas stuck around everywhere, that is what they worked with I guess. Even though these 'hospital' (really cellular?) phones looked and acted like cell phones in general, I noticed that when they had occassion to call another employee or department they only punched out four digits as though it was an extension. Every phone of this type I saw had a notation on it saying 'BLUE 2911' and 'RED 5911'. And when I was in the doctor's office on Monday getting told to immediatly go check in at the hospital, Dr. Higknight's phone was the same way, four digits dialed got him the intake department across the street at the hospital, and '9' got him an outside line. His phone was a 'hospital' (cellular?) phone as well.

Well, that's what I have doing all this past week; sorry to cause the Digest to run a few days behind schedule once again, but I had no real choice; the three doctors all said "you _WILL_ be admitted now to the hospital; not tomorrow when you might 'forget' to return here; not later tonight, but _NOW_. Either walk across the street on your own (and sneak in a cigarette break on the way) or Nurse Jane will push you through the tunnel in a wheel chair, your choice, but one way or the other." I hope not to see it happen again.


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