Life and death in a hospital ravaged by Hurricane KatrinaLife and death in a hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina An excerpt from Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital. At last through the broken windows, the pulse of helicop­ter rotors and airboat propellers set the summer morning air throbbing with the promise of rescue. Floodwaters unleashed by Hurricane Katrina had marooned hundreds of people at the ...

Read more...

Should patients be responsible for physician handwashing? Hospitals struggle to get doctors and nurses to wash their hands. That’s a serious problem, since hand washing is one of the keys to reducing healthcare acquired infections that afflict more than a million patients a year and kill over 100,000. And it’s one of the reasons you should try your best to stay out of the hospital. For the past few years ...

Read more...

I often read advice to doctors about how to screen for domestic violence.  I was that woman for many years. I was that child and I know for a fact my pediatrician knew but was afraid to report it. And then I grew up and became that woman. Physical violence while brutal, doesn’t compare to the controlling, creeping intimate fear sustained in such relationships.  My then husband came with me to some of ...

Read more...

The lyrics to Janet Jackson's song, Nasty, includes this line, "No, my first name ain't baby, it's Janet. Ms. Jackson if you're nasty." Miss Jackson doesn’t like being called, “baby,” and neither do a lot of patients. Many healthcare professionals call patients by nicknames, such as, "honey" and "sweetie." I believe these are terms of endearment and in most cases meant with genuine warm feelings toward patients. However, from interviewing hundreds ...

Read more...

Yesterday, I went with my friend to meet his new nephrologist and receive an unwanted diagnosis.  I went with my friend because I have a unique skill set at meeting new doctors and healthcare providers and dealing with unfamiliar health situations. I know this routine. I know after awhile any diagnosis at all, no matter how awful or serious, becomes a rhythm. I've done this as a patient and I've done it ...

Read more...

Since becoming ill, I’ve learned that I have the innate ability to make doctors very uncomfortable  -- squirmy, even. It’s surprising because I had assumed medical professionals with decades of experience have fielded every possible question a patient might ask. But I suppose I’m not a typical patient. In November 2011, I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer (bronchioloalveolar carcinoma, a subset of adenocarcinoma) with extensive spread to the mediastinal and ...

Read more...

The doctor was adamant. "This is America, not Sweden," he told me. "We operate." How did this happen to me? I wondered, looking at him across the ER exam room. How could I, a healthcare provider, not have insurance? I had woken up that morning with a mildly upset stomach. Nonetheless, I'd gone to my job (begun only six weeks earlier) as a physician assistant at a Beverly Hills HIV clinic. I'd seen patients ...

Read more...

Sara was treated for multiple myeloma in the mid-90s and had a stem cell transplant seven years ago. When I asked her husband how she was doing, he said, “Pretty well … just the gift of a little edema in one arm and some neuropathy in her feet.” On one hand you think, "Hey! That’s great! Those little gifts -- those side effects -- are a small price to pay.” On the ...

Read more...

He was an ornery kind of fellow, evident by his scowl and beady, glaring eyes that greeted me upon my entrance into his room. The nurse, thankfully, had given me a heads-up on this eighty-five year-old gentleman's demeanor. With her kind warning, I felt prepared to be tested by this patient's demanding and abrupt nature. What I wasn't ready for, though, was this man's physical appearance. He was extremely small in ...

Read more...

I always wanted to become a medical doctor to cure the sick and save lives. In fact, most doctors I know chose the profession for the same reason. This fundamental desire among physicians to treat patients is because our beliefs have been deeply rooted in the concept of disease management rather than the provision of health care. As an aspiring physician and student of health care, I often catch myself heading to ...

Read more...