An Eye on Health Care (or: Thank goodness for good nurses)

My apologies for being lax in my blog again. That laxity leads directly into today’s blog.

Friday, my grandfather was admitted to a hospital in Florida. His symptoms: severe chest pains that radiated into his left arm, nausea, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. These are the classic symptoms of heart attacks in men. (The symptoms for women can be quite different. Both men and women can also experience extreme fatigue over several days or weeks.) My grandfather is 75 years old. He has an incredible constitution. However, he also has a history of diabetes and frequent bronchitis and pneumonia. He smoked for decades, though he has not smoked in more than twenty years. When he arrived at the hospital, the first responders administered nitroglycerin which eliminated the chest pains.

All of the above should have fast-tracked him into serious care. But no. My grandfather, and therefore my grandmother, mom, uncles, and aunts, have all been trapped in clinical limbo. After running a battery of tests on my grandfather, the doctors failed to call in a cardiologist to examine him. The only cardiologist native to that hospital was away for the weekend. (Yes, doctors need vacation, too, but you’d think the hospital would have more than one cardiac specialist on duty.) The cardiologist on-call (from many miles to the south) didn’t arrive to see my grandfather until 5 o’clock Saturday evening. That’s almost 36 hours after he was admitted.

My granddad is all hooked up to all kinds of monitors and such, so it’s not as though they’ve shunted him off to some closet somewhere, but many of the doctors seem to be just too busy to care for him. And they lose his test results. Now, he has to wait until Monday to see the hospital’s cardiologist to see whether they’ll give him a stress test (designed to push his body to the verge of a heart attack; which seems like an absolutely TERRIBLE idea), or perform a catheterization. The on-call cardiologist who visited my grandfather yesterday recommended a catheterization immediately, but because of the way the hospitals and insurance are set up, she can’t actually do anything. She can only make recommendations.

It’s a miracle anyone even called her. Whoever read my grandfather’s myriad test results got stuck looking at his lung -xrays and decided that they needed a pulmonary specialist. My grandfather does have a history of bronchitis and lung ailments, but that was not the main issue. The main issue was the probable heart problem that got him admitted in the first place. If my grandfather’s nurses hadn’t noticed that no cardiologist had been contacted, Granddad might still be waiting to be seen. …Except that my family has never been known for being quiet, bless them. They would have made some kind of fuss, that’s certain.

Happily, the nurses providing care are brilliant, hard-working, and adept at finding the proper help whenever necessary, no matter whether they might get in trouble for stepping on toes. The nurses explain all the charts and all the equipment. They have been keeping my grandfather–and my grandmother who has been there with him almost the whole time, and their children–as comfortable as one can be while sitting in a hospital, awaiting answers.

Nurses–good ones–provide hope.

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