16 April 2008

Released from the Hospital

You know how it goes. Two weeks or so ago, I get hit with strep. As I recover from that, I develop a bowel obstruction. Grand prize for my troubles? Over 48 hours in a hospital. Here are my abbreviated thoughts on my recent stay at Norton Suburban Hospital in Louisville, KY:

The Emergency Room

Pros: Dr. Pringle was efficient and pleasant.

Cons: Spending an hour (literally) in an exam room before anyone ever even checked on me to see that I was in the room, much less why I was there. It wasn't until after I was admitted to the hospital that anyone even got around to measuring my height and weight, to give you an idea how little attention the E.R. staff paid me. Also, they left the previous occupant's chart in the room after she left, a major medical no-no. Fortunately, I'm not the snooping type and didn't violate another patient's confidentiality.

The Hospital

Pros: Most of the nursing staff that attended to me was friendly, and that first day when I had to request pain meds to receive them, they responded quickly.

Cons: Having blood drawn from the wrists (yes, plural) instead of my ACL (that's the elbow area for those of you who don't speak anatomy or medical) for no apparent reason. Sharing a room with one old guy after another who could not make it through the day without the TV going. I swear the next person who wakes me up with a small claims court show should have already made his or her peace with the Lord. It didn't help that, even after being told the nurse(s) would try to get the TV turned off at four in the morning, that no one ever even asked either guy to do so.

The Surgeon

Pros: For a guy who pays his summer home mortgage slicing and dicing people, Dr. Pokorney was actually very reasonable about trying to keep from having to operate on me. It was his determination--not the G.I. doctor, mind you--that I should be given time for the antibiotics and steroids to work. He is to the point without being rude, and was quick to respond yesterday to my insistance that I was well enough to leave.

Cons: My only real nitpick is that I felt as well Tuesday as I did yesterday and if he--or anyone else with the authority to do so had listened to me--I might have been spared an unnecessary 24 hours in the hospital. Also, being restricted from any food or drink from Sunday night through Tuesday afternoon was frustrating. It was understandable when surgery was still being considered, but after that was ruled out as a treatment option, my restrictions should have been revised.

The Gastroenterologist

Pros: I only had to see him twice.

Cons: Dr. Martin D. Mark is surely the world's foremost Remicade salesman. He insisted that I should have been on the drug all along, and that had I been on it, I would not have been in my present condition. That may or may not be (despite its high success rate, Remicade is no more an absolute guarantee than any other drug), but that's also not the point. Surely, as a gastroenterologist, Dr. Mark realizes that the standard treatment for Crohn's patients is to start with the small stuff (5 ASA drugs, immunomodulators, tapering dosages of steroids) and to give them time to work. There are currently only a handful of treatment options even available, and rushing through them is not practical. Besides which, Remicade is quite expensive (thousands of dollars per dose). It's like taking your Ford Taurus to a mechanic and being told you should have been driving a Bentley instead. Well, yeah, but there's probably a reason I'm driving a Taurus and not a Bentley, so let's live in my world for a minute. Dr. Mark runs a clinic that gives Crohn's patients Remicade treatments, and I found his manner so abrasive and condescending that even if it were the only avenue open to me to receive the drug, I would likely opt instead to suffer.

Final tally

Pros: The nursing staff's overall friendliness and Dr. Pokorney's measured reactions to my condition were the most important things I got from the people at Norton. My wife only left my side for necessary errands, and even then only after I insisted to her it was okay to do so. I could not have made it through this ordeal without her support. And, whether you share my spiritual convictions or not, I know this was a test of me by a greater power and I can only conclude that God found something about my response to this test to His liking, because He spared me the surgical fate medical science had pronounced.

Cons: I don't care if a guy has lost a leg to flesh-eating bacteria or is suffering extraordinary pain from cancer: there should be reasonable hours of the day in which a patient's TV is turned off for the comfort of whomever is in the bed beside him. Rest is one of the most important components to any patient's recovery, and it's hard to do that when your eyes are bombarded by flashing TV lights through the night or, unlike the guy who insists on having the TV turned to Judge Judy, you can't doze off because she's too obnoxious. And, of course, I wish someone had taken me more seriously Tuesday when I tried to tell them that the antibiotics and steroids were working and that I was making tremendous progress.