Frigging Snot-Sucking Cold

“The Cold” – The Sequel

flu microbeOh how I regret not getting the flu shot this year!  I was so busy all fall, I just didn’t take the time to go to the Dr. and take care of it.  Then I heard that the six strains of influenza that the flu gurus chose this year to protect us all against, weren’t the ones that were entering our airspace!  Great.  So I figured it probably wouldn’t have been worth my while, anyway.

We were doing very well until that lousy month of March descended upon us.  Our daughter was the first to succumb to the green eyed cold microbe.  Thankfully we had a puffer in the medicine cabinet that wasn’t expired from last year’s flu season, so within ten days along with dosing herself with Vitamins C and D, chugging lemon juice and honey and enough oranges to keep the Florida citrus farmer in business, she managed to fight it off.

Somewhere along the way, the hubby caught the bug, and while our daughter is very pro-active about taking control of her treatment, all hubby could do was sit in front of the TV in his recliner, moaning,  swaddled in a fleecy blanket, exploding at regular intervals in fits of coughing that had me checking to see if he brought up a lung.  As we are all aware, the man cold is a pitiful condition and all one can hope for is for it too, to pass.  I was not to escape unscathed, however.

Within days of Paul’s  getting infected, I started to feel the malaise creeping over me, the scratchy throat, the hurty eyes, the low grade fever.  How could I avoid it when the wash from the explosive coughing and hacking was constantly enveloping me?  I would have had to bathe in hand sanitizer and lysol to escape the contamination!  Or, at least wear a gas mask.

Meanwhile, the elder one sat in her granny flat, sucking in the oxygen and saying she felt fine.  Maybe, with the cannula tubes sticking up her nose, she had a better chance on avoiding it, and we had made sure the Dr. had administered the flu shot on his fall visit.  Of course, these circumstances were to change rapidly when her home care worker fell victim to the flu bug and it quickly turned to double pneumonia!

It wasn’t long before the elder one started showing signs of infection. I thanked my lucky stars that we weren’t living in an area of the world that is stricken with Ebola!  We wouldn’t last jig time!  After a couple of days with the cough progressing, the refusal to eat  and the weakness setting in, it was over to the Health Sciences Hospital we went.

I had to laugh at the hospital’s policy on protection of patient’s privacy, as I sat in the triage office with my mother-in-law, in full view of the patient intake records that were stacked on the counter.  We were ushered into an ER suite where an EKG was done, vitals recorded, and vials of blood drawn.  An IV was inserted and bags of saline and antibiotics were hung, and within minutes the elder one was whisked off for chest x-rays.  Soon a nurse came by to say they needed the room, so all of the elder one’s few possessions were packed aboard her transport and she was parked out in the ER corridor. Apparently we were waiting for a medical consult, or so I assumed from reading the white board which changed from minute to minute as patients entered and left the department.

Directly across from where I was sitting, a white board, announcing the handle time stats that the hospital had been able to achieve through the various departments, had been posted.  The statistics presented broke down the handle time of patient care from when the patient had entered the department, whether it be ER, hospital admittance, day surgery, etc. from the Dr.’s initial assessment, to discharge.  It reminded me of when I worked at Convergys and the all-important call handle time. they were unrealistically hoping to achieve.  They had the average length of stay worked out to the minute, and I wondered if the Dr.s who kept within their prescribed parameters got a bonus, or at least a treat.  It was no wonder that the nurses and Dr.s were running around like blue arsed flies and had no time to stop to fill a small request. like a paper cup of ice water for a person who was parched from the effects of pneumonia and the dry air of the hospital.

After several hours waiting in the corridor, during which time a Dr. and a couple of residents examined my mother-in-law, who was dressed only in a “Johnny coat” and endured the indignity of being on full display to the many folks who wandered in and out of the ER, either looking for their loved ones, or seeking treatment themselves.  This was also the circumstance that we found ourselves subjected to as the Dr. brought up the question of my mother-in-law’s wishes in the event that her heart should stop!  That’s not the place you would want to be presented with that decision to make, and someone standing over you, holding out a pen, and forcing you to make a decision right on the spot!

The Dr. decided that he would admit my mother-in-law and the clock started ticking on her admittance handle time.  we were further informed then that the hospital was on “Diversion” because of the busy day they were having, there was no bed available to put my mother in, so they were going to transport her across town in an ambulance to St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital.  Not the ideal situation for a ninety year old with one lung half filled with fluid! But what choice did we have, so we settled in to wait for the ambulance crew.

Three hours later, we were still waiting for the EMT’s to show up.  Even though at least seven crews rolled through, none had been asked to pick up the mother-in-law.  Finally I hailed the passing ER admin nurse and asked if there might not have been a bed open up in the three hours that we had been awaiting a transfer.  She was highly offended that I would presume to question their authority, so I expressed my views on the strain on my mother-in-law’s condition to put her through further bother in transferring her to another hospital..  She finally agreed to call the ambulance service to get an ETA on when we could expect them to show up.

At this point I was starving, and as a diabetic, knew that I should try and grab some food.  I was afraid to leave my monther-in-law’s side, however, as she was not lucid enough to answer questions about her condition, And I wouldn’t be sure of where they were going to take her.  Neither she nor I were sorry to hear the next EMT crew calling for Mrs. Cook.

From the time we brought her in at 10:45 am to the time she went into the ambulance at 8:10 pm, ten and a quarter hours had passed. I don’t know what that did to their patient handle time stats!

The elder one has since recovered marginally and has been deemed well enough to come home.The first time she was discharged was the Friday after her Monday’s admittance.  By Friday, she was still weak as a kitten, was barking like a dog, and had by now had developed a condition called thrush, which is a fungal infection of the mouth, causing pain in the tongue and tissues inside the mouth, making it difficult to eat, drink, or swallow.  The elder one, who was not a fan of hospital food at the best of times was now not eating anything, and drinking very little either.  We could literally see her shrinking away in the bed, and while she would have been happier and us more comfortable with her being home, we knew that there was danger to herself, being that she would be in her own apartment, alone at night, and with the sore mouth and complications with the pneumonia, even though she might meet the criterion for being declared “clinically stable” she was far from being well enough to come home in these circumstances.

Paul made the suggestion that he would like to have a social worker’s input on what should be done about Mrs. Cook’s care and it wasn’t long before another nurse showed up to take another set of vitals.  After a short time, the nurse announced that Mrs. Cook could stay overnight and they wold re-assess in the morning.  It looked like the Dr. wasn’t willing to take on the social worker, who does wield more power on whether a patient should be discharged or not.  Being that we would be into the weekend, with a decreased staff and very few Dr.s around, we figured she wouldn’t be going anywhere until Monday.

On monday, by three thirty we hadn’t heard anything from the hospital on whether or not they were discharging Mrs. Cook, so over we goes to the hospital to check on her status.  Her nurse said she had been trying to locate her Dr. to see if he would release her, but he wasn’t readily available.  Finally she said she would page him again, and we got her dressed and ready to go, in case we had to make a break for it.  Although she wasn’t what you would call well, and still isn’t, half a week from when she came home, as the Dr. put it, “she’s probably better off at home because at least she wouldn’t be exposed to further infection.”  What? are the health care facilities so rotten dirty that one risks infection lying in a bed receiving treatment for pneumonia?  I guess the thrush incident was proof that this was true.  Either this, or the nurses were not being vigilant in their patient’s care by cutting corners by not having them rinse their mouths after mask treatments.  God help us all if they were dealing with Ebola, Leprosy, or some either horrible communicable disease!  That’s one way to cut down on the patient handle time, if they all die!

The other night I just-for-fun googled Hospital Statistics and how they arrive at their goals for patient handle time.  I came across a study for handling patients presenting with pneumonia.  You should have seen the formulas and the variables they use to come up with an acceptable average  “goal” time for patient care.  Three days seemed to be what the computer squeezed out for a ninety one year old with a history of COPD, on home oxygen.  I remembered when the attending physician had, upon learning Mrs. Cook’s age, patted her on the hand and said, “My, you’ve lived a fine long life haven’t you?”  as much to say,” Well what do you expect, we’re not going to waste our time trying to prolong your life when their are lots of younger people out there  requiring our care.”

For a person who owned her own business for thirty eight years and diligently paid her taxes quarterly until we had to take control of her affairs, this attitude on the part of health care so-called “professionals” towards seniors is not warranted.  I would be very surprised if any of them would allow their elderly parents to be treated with the lack of respect and dignity that many of these poor old souls have to endure.  It’s time that Dr.s and nurses are allowed to take the time to make sure patients receive quality care in an environment conducive to healing.

Some say that the health care system here in Canada is the envy of the world, but the care you get is not always enviable.  Under our system, everyone is entitled to free health care, and that is a wonderful thing.  I just hope the bean counters don’t shave off so many minutes of patient handling time that people don’t have time to fully recover from their illnesses.  Remember that old nemesis in the call center called “One call resolution?”  maybe the statisticians should add another  variable called “re-admittance” to that God-awful long equation, before they are satisfied that they are making the best decisions on our health care.

norma in yellow circle                                                   elderly-hospital-bed


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