Wednesday, April 4, 2007

In Healthcare, Everyone Counts

When thinking about healthcare, most people usually think about doctors first and nurses second. While they are certainly the main players, that doesn’t mean that other people in the medical arena can’t make a major impact.

Example 1:

A good friend of mine woke up in the middle of the night to find herself paralyzed on the left side of her body. She somehow pulled herself over to the phone and called someone to come get her and take her to the hospital.

She was admitted, of course, and began her long journey back to health with test after test. As it turns out, she had a form of a stroke called Vasculitis. She was terrified.

I spent the night in the chair next to her as much as I could. One morning, only a few days since she had fallen so ill, a young nursing assistant came in to give her a sponge bath. My friend, weak and scared was made to feel even more vulnerable by the stripping down of her clothes. As the woman washed her they began to talk. My friend told her what had happened and how scared she was. The woman began to ask her about Jesus and I didn’t think much of it as my friend is a devout Christian. Soon the conversation slid into why this had happened to her and the nursing assistant offered her opinion that it was due to her sinning nature. She surmised that if my friend had not been such a sinner this would not have happened.

As a little back story on my friend, she was very kind and very innocent. She had never been married, never been intimate and loved to teach children. Also, as I mentioned, she was a devout Christian.

To my surprise my friend did not defend herself. Naked and shivering, she began to cry and accepted the theory presented by the nursing assistant. I became enraged and told the woman to leave immediately. In my friend’s state it took me hours to help her see that the words spoken were cruel and untrue. After that day, I was never sure that my friend completely believed that this wasn’t caused by her sinning.

Just a nursing assistant? Yes, with a dangerous tongue and too much access to patients.

I am proud to say I got her fired.

Example 2:

After my first transplant I was in ICU for a week. I was intibated and on lots of pain medications. Every morning I would be woken up by the cleaning lady asking me if I was ok? I was baffled! Why did this woman keep waking me from my peaceful sleep?

One morning I was dreaming that I was cleaning out my closet (riveting, I know). I woke up slowly and saw that I had my arms out-stretched and was acting out the dream with my hands. It dawned on me then that this must be why the cleaning lady would wake me up! My morphine dreams were so real I would act them out and it would look like I was in distress.

I wish I could tell that woman how much I appreciate her concern. It is so nice to know that some people just care about patients, no matter what the job description.

The Verdict:

In healthcare, never underestimate the power of one person’s role. Never fail to report a callous care-giver or employee because chances are it is not an isolated incident. Always thank people for their compassion as it is a beautiful gift.

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