Staying up late last night watching the election, I got a lot less sleep than usual. And waking up this morning, I’m reading and hearing many different responses and emotions expressed across social media and news outlets. And it all gives me pause. I’m pondering myself, wondering what all of the results might mean in the days to come.
But in the midst of all the focus on politics, my thoughts go to my “baby” sister, Colleen, who is just now wheeling into major surgery for hip repair. Her husband just texted me that the OR crew is taking her back. So life does go forward, and we must soldier on. Except she does get to go to sleep and then stay on drugs for weeks to come. She won’t have to ponder all these new circumstances. She gets an out. I’d say she’s a little bit luckier than me.
Of course, I say that in jest. She’s had a hard time of it. Already, just this summer, she had the first hip put back together. Her surgeon repaired the damage that was making it difficult for her to even walk because of the terrible pain she was in. She was on her way to recovery, only after incredibly grueling and intensive PT, and after weeks and weeks of painful coping and healing (all while still mothering her three young boys). And then one day in PT, a therapist who wasn’t her normal caregiver, said, “I’m going to make you cry today.” And when Colleen told the therapist that she had already done some of the exercises at home before coming in, the same therapist exclaimed, “Are you stupid?”
That temporary therapist pushed her so hard, trying to “make her cry,” that Colleen’s other hip tore right there in the PT office. For several days following, she hobbled around with the additional pain, newly lame in both legs. They had to do another round of MRIs and many other painful procedures to diagnose the new damage. They confirmed she’d experienced the same rupture inside the second hip that had just been repaired in the other. Talk about discouraging!
From all the medical treatment I’ve received over the years, I’ve learned that caregivers are as diverse as any group of people. Some are good at what they do. Some are bad. Some hurt you. And some actually do damage.
When Jason and I had only been married a year or two, I was at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago for surgery. It was Out Patient, so I wasn’t going to be admitted to stay overnight. After surgery and recovery in the OR, they took me to their Out Patient Surgery ward. A nurse woke me now and then to take my vitals, check my dressing, give me pain meds or ice chips, and to continue “recovering” me from the procedure. I slept deeply for hours and hours (as we have found over the years, I’m very sensitive to medications) and the day grew late. Jason was sitting at my bedside the entire time, reading and helping me reposition or spoon in ice chips if the nurse wasn’t available. When I woke after one long stretch, I looked down at my stomach and saw that blood had seeped through my hospital gown. I asked Jason to call the nurse to come check my dressing and incision.
He walked out of my room…into darkness. My nurse was gone. The overhead lights were all off. The unit was completely abandoned. Not a sound. Only dim security lights glowed along the empty corridors. I’d been forgotten.
Jason went searching to try to find someone to help. Through the dark hallways, he went until he found another department that still had its lights on. A nearby inpatient unit was bustling with activity. Stopping a nurse whisking past him by the nurses station, he told her that his wife had had surgery but that everyone had gone, that I was over in a room and they’d just left me.
If you think that got a reaction, you’re right. Patient abandonment is a pretty big deal. Hospitals and their lawyers frown on the practice. So I sure got a lot of attention then. People came, they turned the lights back on, and they took royal care of me. They discharged me late that night, taking me down to the front doors of the hospital in a wheelchair and helping me into the taxi where Jason would take over and get me home to convalesce there. It all worked out, fortunately. I didn’t have any complications. And I never contacted Northwestern to tell them what had happened.
But all that does remind me how sometimes we don’t get the care we need. So as Colleen is in surgery this morning, and then facing another arduous, painful, overwhelming journey to try to regain her health and mobility, I say prayers for her. And maybe you’d join me in supporting her, in keeping her in your thoughts and prayers. If you’d like, maybe you’d even want to help by providing a meal for her family. If you would, private message me. (Those boys of hers eat a LOT.) Thank you!
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