This week my mother was brought to your hospital by ambulance because she was having a difficult time breathing. She has gone through a lot over the last month and a half, having recently been sent home from U of M hospital after a failed attempt to repair a leaking mitral valve. My mother fought to have the ambulance return her to U of M but the rescue unit policy is “closest hospital”.
My sister, who lives very close to your hospital was in the ER within minutes of my mother’s arrival. She received Dr. Wolcott’s permission to stay with my mother. Understandably, my mother was quite agitated and afraid. My sister says that she was working with the staff to get my mother calm enough to use the oxygen mask. An ER nurse, whose name I never got, ordered my sister out of the ER because she said “you’re in the way here”. This was delivered in a very dismissive and mean tone of voice.
We then spent nearly two hours trying to get information and permission to go back and see my mother. I’ll refrain from speculating on the nurse’s motivations but from my side of conversations with her I could tell that she was not happy with us demanding information. I think she purposely took her time getting back to us as some sort of punishment. Don’t you have techs that could have relayed a message to us? It would have put our minds at ease to hear anything.
The ER nurse finally led us back to see my mother. What we found was my mother completely knocked out and hooked up to a ventilator. We were very upset and concerned and asked to speak to the doctor. Perhaps our reputation as trouble makers had already spread because when Dr. Wolcott finally came to talk to us he was very brusque and seemed irritated by our questions and requests for further explanations.
We spent 10 hours in the ER room before she was transferred to intensive care, which was now a necessity since she had a breathing tube. It took three days to get her out of intensive care because removing a breathing tube is no small feat. It stands to reason then that one would only insert one when absolutely necessary.
Our theory is that the breathing tube was not necessary. My mother’s anxiety and agitation was not acceptable to the ER staff. The doctor’s solution was to knock her out and stick a breathing tube down her throat. I have no absolute proof but I offer the following as support of our assertion:
One minute my mother is raising her voice and is very agitated (seems as if that would take some ability to breathe on your own) and the next she is on a ventilator. Dr. Wolcott’s report to us never included information about how she stopped breathing or even that she came close to it.
The respiratory therapist made an off hand comment that they were running out of ventilators in the ER. Does this imply some sort of overuse of this equipment at your hospital?
The U of M intensive care nurse, upon her admission there, without any prompting or discussion with us about her condition, said, “A breathing tube seems drastic. I can’t figure out why they put it in her. She doesn’t seem to be that bad.” Again, we had not said a word about our suspicions.
My mother’s vital signs were stable and strong throughout this ordeal, at least as far as I could see once I was allowed to be with her. The oxygen level on her ventilator was able to be lowered almost immediately. If she truly had been near death’s door wouldn’t you expect there to be some struggle to return to normal vital signs?
My expectations for medical professionals and institutions are that they show an appropriate level of concern, compassion and competency. I don’t expect infallibility but I do expect that the patient’s well being takes precedence over expediency and convenience.
To end this on a positive note, our family would like to personally thank the ICU nurse by the name of Anyssa. She was personally responsible for helping us get my mother transferred to U of M hospital. After nearly 24 hours of asking for it to happen with no action by the doctors, she made it her personal mission. She didn’t make it obvious that she was behind it either. She just wanted to help us do what was best for my mother. My advice to you is to make her the benchmark you use when hiring staff.