I woke up to him, pacing the bedroom.
Within an hour, I was pacing the ER at his bedside.
Our experience at one of the country’s best-ranked hospitals lasted only three days before we were discharged home. What led us there will last a lifetime in our minds. When faced with your own mortality (or that of your husband’s), you are forever changed. We are grateful for his continued recovery from myopericarditis. A condition that baffles even cardiologists.
Our respective medical and pharmacy backgrounds, while an inpatient in a large hospital, gave us both a hall pass to ask the tough questions, use medical jargon and point out studies that were relevant to his care. We were grateful for the skills we carried. We were vocal to the team but always respectful. Yet, we were also labeled the “anxious MD-Pharm D duo.” In the end, I was his advocate, and he was his own, and that is all that mattered.
We quickly realized that care in a hospital requires constant vigilance. Each step had to be closely monitored, precisely re-examined — and yep, I had to hover. I hovered over every decision, every medicine that was administered, and every result that was shared. I kept thinking to myself, “Trust that you are in good hands,” but those words disappeared as the days progressed and the reality set in. Trusting in a stranger is not an easy task. I often mumbled to myself, “But they would do the same if it were their loved one.” ”
It was a humbling experience to be on the “other” side, but it was also quite frightening. Mistakes and miscommunication circulated through the sterile halls, yes, even at one of America’s finest hospitals.
Residents and fellows with red-shot eyes were drained and were expected to answer phone calls while in mid-sentence with their patients. Nurses were following protocols but were not kept up to speed by the medical team at critical times, like medication distribution. Attendings were swamped with incredibly high volumes of patients and challenged to provide adequate oversight. Our medical care system, as it currently stands, is allowing for all this to happen. I stood at his bedside, bearing witness to it all at a level I had never seen, even while in training.
Hospital systems strive to prioritize patient care and successful outcomes. Physicians and health care providers enter the field of medicine with a deep-rooted desire to help others and to provide compassionate care to their patients.
What I struggle with today is accepting that these ingredients are becoming less and less a reality on any given day.
Looking back at our experience, now a month later, our hearts are awoken.
From this experience in the cardiac unit, we count our blessings each day. We are grateful to access medical care within minutes. We are also grateful for the ability to advocate for ourselves in times of need.
But we also recognize that healers need healing too. And that the body of medicine, as a whole, also needs to wake up.
The author is an anonymous physician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com