Thursday, May 28, 2020

Healthcare during COVID

It's been said the pandemic is affecting just about everyone, and affecting different folks in different ways.

I think that's pretty accurate. As Older Son has said, we are all in this together, but everyone is not in the same boat.

For him and his wife, they've juggled two full-time jobs and caring for a two-year-old whose daycare was closed. Countless others have dealt with similar circumstances, and others have dealt with differing ones.

We finally had a partial family get-together last weekend, with everyone except Younger Son, and it was wonderful. We know where they have all been and what they've been doing, and they've been careful, so we felt it was a minimal risk.

Unfortunately, however, last weekend took an unexpected turn and we're still dealing with it.

Saturday morning, Wife woke up with a sharp pain in her lower back. She said she felt it during the night.

As the day wore on, it got worse, and by Saturday night it was unbearable. At midnight I took her to the Emergency Room at a hospital about 15 minutes away.

Following the COVID protocol, I could not go in with her. I parked and waited. Some three hours later she emerged with a diagnosis of a kidney stone. I had suspected as much because I have had several. The things cause god-awful pain.

They sent her home with pain meds, telling her maybe she would pass it, and with a recommendation to see a urologist.

Monday morning, Memorial Day, the pain was worse. I took her back to the ER and after another three hours, she left with stronger medication.

We saw the urologist Tuesday morning and a procedure was scheduled for Friday (tomorrow as I write this). But things deteriorated to the point she was admitted to the hospital yesterday, had one procedure today and will have another tomorrow. She has been very, very sick.

I'm leaving out a lot of details, including a couple of pretty severe miscommunications from hospital staff or the doctor's office to me. The most difficult part has been the fact I cannot go in the hospital with her. All the information I get comes from her conveying information given to her, phone conversations with hospital staff and one phone conversation with her doc.

In today's healthcare system, you have to be your own advocate, or you have to have someone advocating on your behalf. With the heavy medication Wife has been on, it's been difficult for her to advocate for herself. And it's hard for me to do it without being there.

But this afternoon some progress was made. Wife called me early in the afternoon and told me a nurse had told her she would be discharged this afternoon, but would return tomorrow for the next procedures. 

I got on the phone with the doctor's office. I did not get mad and I did not raise my voice but I very firmly stated I thought it made no sense whatsoever for her to be released from the hospital only to go right back there tomorrow, especially given the amount of pain she is still in and how sick she has been.

I got a call back a few minutes later and was told the doctor had canceled the discharge. I thanked the person who told me this, but told her I still had great concerns about communication throughout this ordeal. And I still do.

More than anything, I want Wife to be OK and to come home well on her way to recovery.

I have the utmost respect for folks in healthcare and I know the stress they are under right now. I'm not finding fault with anyone here. But when it's over, I think I'll send a nice letter to the hospital and the doctor's office, simply offering my observations and how this might have been handled differently or better. Maybe we can all learn something.