Hospital Advocacy 101–A Refresher Couse

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. —Helen Keller
Helen Keller’s quotation could be a the tagline for Advocacy 101, a class I feel I attended this weekend. I received a text Friday morning from my brother Tim, telling me our 82-year-old mother had been admitted to the hospital in the early morning hours. Apparently she had fallen in the night and couldn’t get up–yes, just like the commercial says.
When I finally arrived in Springfield, I went straight to the hospital observation ward. My mother was very ill, that was clear. The doctors were running tests on her to rule out arterial blockage, stroke or neurological issues. Her main symptom was extreme vertigo, as she had no balance at all, which left her exhausted and nauseated, and shaking. She had not been able to eat all day. Fortunately, when I left her three hours later for the evening, she was perking up and looking and feeling better. The doctors were very helpful, and explained everything they could, in the best way they could. The nursing staff was excellent and we felt she was getting top-notch care.
As I left, I realized I had not been in a hospital, in a medical situation, in a very long time, probably more than four years ago, when my son was last admitted with me around (appendicitis). My advocacy skills were a bit rusty.
Well, the great care she received Friday was from the day staff. The next day I returned with my sister-in-law Lee, and my mother looked like she was suffering, having had an ordeal through the night, including a 3 am MRI. She was curled up on one side, unable to lift her head, nauseated to the extreme. She had not had anything to eat or drink in forever. She said the noise from the admin desk (just a few feet away) from the “girls” at the desk was loud, obnoxious, keeping her tense and unable to rest. She rang and rang the call button, but no one came to assist her. She listed all her frustrations.
Lee poked her head out of the curtain that barely screened her from the rest of the ward and ordered, “She needs a room, now. She is very uncomfortable.” And this lead to, when are we getting the room? Do you know, within 15 minutes they had a room for her. They gave her a pill for nausea, changed her, wheeled her upstairs and brought her delicious broth to drink. My mom felt better within 30 minutes. She sat up and ate the soup.
Lee also discovered that the nurse did not have it noted on her charts that my mother is diabetic: staff should really not be giving her muffins with high glucose content! Noted. And her diet was changed.
I was proud of my sister-in-law for being there, and for so immediately requesting an improvement. That’s true advocacy in action. It was a reminder of everything I learned 27 years ago when my son with hemophilia was born: how to politely make my medical rights known, to make my needs known, to speak up for a baby who cannot speak for himself. And not to back down when you know you are right. These skills weakened over time when not used; I was slower to advocate for my mother than my sister-in-law was!
I just learned that she has been discharged; so we will arrange to have her brought home, just in time for Christmas. And from where did I first learn medical advocacy? It wasn’t really hemophilia; it was from mom of course. As one of seven children, I watched her handle hospitals and doctors many times with my active brothers. And I saw her get action when she spoke up. The nurse mentioned to me that my mother is refusing a script for a walker, which we all wanted her to have. That’s advocacy and pride. That’s my mom, my first advocacy teacher.
Interesting Book I Just Read
Metallica This Monster Lives: The Inside Story of Some Kind of Monster [Kindle]
Joe Berlinger and Greg MilnerA story about the making of a documentary of one of the most successful metal bands, which was going through a crisis that threatened to destroy itself. In 2001 Metallica was reeling from losing its bass player, yet had to produce a new album, its first in years. The film team that produced two excellent documentaries, Brother’s Keeper and Paradise Lost (and the widely panned Blair Witch Project 2), now documented the band composing, fighting and enduring therapy with a performance coach. 1600 hours of footage turned into a feature documentary, and entered the Sundance Festival. But the book–an oddity. More about the filmaker and his career. Berlinger is too close to his subjects to be objective, and at times, revels giddily in his chumminess with Lars, the drummer. But I enjoyed it, even if it is an unevenly told story; Berlinger comes across as a very nice person, sincerely trying to do his best as the game plan keeps changing radically. Lars does not come across well. Fans may cringe at hearing these thrash metal superstars bare their feelings towards each other. A great book for psychotherapists or filmakers in training. The Kindle version is riff with missing periods at the end of sentences. Two/five stars.

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