Retirement is a week filled with Saturdays and Sundays interrupted only occasionally by a holiday.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Adventures In the ER

Okay...I've had enough of our HMO Emergency Room. Friday night we spent 4 hours there attending to my mom's gastro-intestinal distress. Last night we spent more than 8 hours there after Mom complained about a "heaviness" in her chest during the afternoon.

I spent the morning and afternoon with Mom while Lynn was at work. Around 1:00pm, Mom began to mention that she felt a "heaviness" in her upper chest. It wasn't a sharp pain...just "heaviness." She then began to belch occasionally and I wondered whether this was all a part of her "recovery" from her weekend siege. My only concern was that she'd used the term "heaviness" in 1998 to describe the pain that eventually turned into a heart attack.

I continued to monitor her for distress and, when Lynn came home from work, we decided we'd bring her to the ER as a precautionary move. We arrived at 4:30PM and so began our 2nd "adventure" there. She was immediately seen by a triage nurse who took an EKG and determined things were not immediately life threatening. Then they parked us in the ER hallway (all the rooms were full) until eventually they found one available. Mom was hooked up to monitors and an IV and eventually blood was taken for her lab work. Finally an ER doctor found his way to Mom's cubicle and we were told that, while all her initial lab work and EKG were good, he wanted to admit her to the hospital for overnight observation and a stress test the next day. And then he left us to wait and wait and wait yet again.

I'm not sure how it works in other ER's but, in our HMO, once the ER doctor sees you and determines you need to be admitted, you must be seen by a hospital Admitting doctor before they look for a room for you. And that's where I just don't get it...if an ER doctor determines it's necessary to admit a patient, why is it necessary to be seen by yet another doctor? Aren't the ER doctor's medical degree and experience just as valid as an Admitting physician's? This HMO policy only delays things and adds to the discomfort and stress of the patient who is already anxious and concerned. There were 2 Admitting doctors on call last night to handle the entire Emergency Room and they were no where to be found for Mom. After several hours, we finally got testy with the nurse and he went off in search of any doctor to handle my mom's case.

Finally a Hospital doctor stepped into the cubicle and examined Mom and went over her lab work and history with us. The bottom mom's problem could be heart related or gastro-intestinal related...they just didn't know. It was up to us to decide whether to have them keep Mom overnight or release her. This was a pretty big decision for two extremely sleep deprived daughters to make but we decided to have them release her with a promise that we'd return if the symptoms returned. By then, it was after midnight.

I'm at Lynn's this morning while she is off to work for an important meeting. I'm worried about her health too since she's taken the brunt of this for the past several days since Mom lives with her. She's promised me she'll leave work immediately after her meeting and come home to sleep. I'm counting on that. The last thing I need is to nurse not one but two family members back to health. Florence Nightingale I'm not.


Mom said...

What a lot of scary waiting and heavy decision making. Home is a much better place to rest. Will be praying that all will be well with no more ER visits. Keep us all posted.

Renee said...

Wow that was a lot to deal with. Hugs! I can't stand it when the doctors don't know what's going on...and then decide to release you...what's up with that? It almost killed my mom, thank goodness my stepdad asked to see a lung doctor.

I sure hope that your mom gets better soon...that kind of stress is too much.

the moose buyer said...

I am praying so hard I am sure our ancestors can hear me. Mom just has to be well. She has been my rock and hero all 64 and a half years of my life and even though I am an old adult, in mom's presence I am still the child she loves.

Lynn, you take care of yourself and let me know if I can do anything even if it's just keeping you and Joan company. said...

Boy, does this bring back memories for me! I spent LOTS and LOTS of hours sitting in the ER waiting with my mother during the last five years of her life. And I was still working full time and had teenage kids acting up at the time as well. The Sandwich Generation sucks.

My sister and I finally figured out that it made more sense to take turns sitting in the hospital with her. No sense in both of us being sleep deprived at the same time.

I enjoy your blog, BTW. I've been lurking here for a few weeks. I thought I might as well pop in and say hi.

Bunny Bubblette

Midlife Mom said...

Oh the ER stories are all alike aren't they?! The waiting and waiting is just AWFUL! I don't know what the problem is, if they don't have enough people on staff or what but I hate going there unless I have to. I will say though that when I fell off my horse a few months ago I was only there for four hours and that was a record! Hope your Mom is better real soon!

Susie said...

Dear Joan,
I've just been catching up with your news here. I'm so very sorry for the loss of your cousin Frank. May your wonderful memories from years past comfort you.
My prayers are with you as you deal with your Mom's health issues. I truly understand how difficult that can be.

Patti said...

Hi Joan,
Sorry about all that stress you and Lynn are going through. It's awful. I just went through that waiting in the ER with my mother last month.
She was breathing pure oxygen for hours, like 8 or 9, and when the pulmonologist came to see her after all that time he said they could take her off of it.
"You're cooked," he said with a smile. So I thought when he left the room someone else would "promptly" come in and take the oxygen mask off. No such luck.
I can't even remember how much longer it was on. I left, came back and whatever. (The hospital is only 2 miles from my house)
She had that oxygen on long after the specialist said she didn't need it.
I dunno...
I'm sending support to you, Lynn and Ina. Maybe Lynn can take a sick day??
hugs to all...

Linda said...

Ah, the dreaded ER which handles so many patients that aren't emergent that they just don't have time to handle those that truly are - or have the potential of being. I don't know about the whole ER doctor vs Admitting Doctor out here in Connecticut but I can tell you that, as someone who sends people to transport people to the hospital constantly, they can get really backed up something awful. Most of the problems can be traced back to not enough staff which to me means that they need to hire some more so that people can be seen and treated in a timely manner.

Without giving away any details and violating the Patient Privacy Act, we had an instance the other day of a patient who had been in the ER for 6 days before they could transfer to a specialized facility. Six days!!

I hope that your Mom is merely having some GI issues and it's nothing serious; I also hope you've done your time in the ER for the remainder of this year and all of next! Best wishes to you, Lynn, and your mom!

rosemary said...

I could explain why the need for an admitting doc, but that does not excuse the delay for a patient with possible cardiac problems...and then to leave the decision up to you? Bad medicine.

Ralph said...

I hate being in the ER, and I despise any GI issues. I hope for the best for your mom and I hope that you doting and caring daughters can get some rest...soon

ms chica said...

I have a little experience with hospitals this year, and I sympathize...There is no easy way to get healthcare. I hope you mother starts feeling better and both you and Lynn get some much needed rest.