This past week has been an incredible roller coaster of emotions.
On Tuesday I was scheduled to receive a call from the hospital, a ‘pre-admission’ interview. Before the call, I answered the health question survey they had given me, collected information on my medications as suggested in the packet I’d been given, had my insurance card handy and had reviewed all the paperwork in the packet.
The Sister called and began asking me questions. She had me on speaker phone which I thought was rude and annoying, as there was a lot of ambient noise and I felt a bit awkward about talking about my personal health issues not knowing whether anyone else was in the room, or who could listen in. Not sure how that’s in compliance with HIPAA, but anyway…
After all the questions, instructions for the day of surgery, she asks me if I have had my EKG and Blood Work. I was shocked, as I looked through my packet, I didn’t remember orders for anything like that, no one spoke to me about anything like that. My ‘pre-admission testing’ form had my name at the top, the hospital the procedure will be done at, my home phone, Tuesday’s date and a box checked that said “pre-admission phone interview”. That’s it. I told her no I hadn’t had any testing done, as I wasn’t given orders to have them done.
She sighed and told me this was a serious problem that might prevent me from having the surgery done. My heart sank! Mentally preparing for surgery and trying to prepare my home so my husband wouldn’t be overwhelmed by chores while I was recovering the first week had pretty much worn me out… I could hardly hold back tears, not sad tears, but those pesky tears of anger that betray us from time to time.
I told the sister, “Look, I don’t understand this. I saw the surgeon the last time roughly 3 and a half weeks ago. I’ve had that amount of time to get testing done if it was necessary, I now have 3 business days until I have surgery, you have to be kidding me.”
She explained, “You have high blood pressure and you’re taking blood pressure medication. Regardless of your age, you HAVE TO have an EKG and blood work before the procedure. If you are over 50, you always have to have these tests, but typically anyone under 50 doesn’t, unless they have a heart condition or circulation problem doesn’t have to.
I explained to her that the following day I had furniture being delivered early in the morning, then my son was going out with his habilitation aide for 2 hours and when they came back we were having a service coordination meeting. There was no way I could go out and get it done Wednesday. She asked about Thursday and I shared with her that my son goes out to volunteer and I need to be here when he leaves and when he gets home because he’s alone both times. She asked why I couldn’t do in between him leaving and coming home, so I shared with her that I have to use STEP transportation for persons with disabilities and their pick up and drop off times are never accurate and can be as much as a half hour to 45 min later than they schedule for, so they are, in a case like this, unreliable. I told her perhaps I could schedule it for Friday. She told me if there’s anything questionable about the EKG we have to get an okay from the family physician, Friday doesn’t leave them much time to do that. I agreed, since my doctor only has office hours on Fridays until noon.
She told me I could come in early on the day of surgery and have the tests done, but she didn’t recommend that for the same reason she didn’t recommend having them Friday. I was left with no option other than to have my husband run me to the hospital as soon as he got home from work Friday night and try to beat the closing time for the lab. The Sister said she would send the orders down to the lab so they would be there when I arrived.
I hung up with the Sister and called the surgeon’s office. I asked them to review my records before the surgery because the hospital indicated that what they received from the surgeon’s office did not make mention of high blood pressure or blood pressure medication. I told them I needed pre-admission testing and I didn’t appreciate that they didn’t order that 3 weeks ago, so I had time to get it completed.
The receptionist said “It’s not needed. I’ll have to check.” She put me on hold and came back to say “All I can do is apologize, it’s in your records here that you have high blood pressure. The only thing I can think of that might have caused the mix up is that you went right from seeing the surgeon in to schedule the surgery and the information didn’t get put into our computer system in that brief amount of time.” She put me on hold again.
As I’m sitting on hold I realized she was full of BS. I had completed ‘new patient’ paperwork 2 weeks before the consultation appointment when he decided to do surgery. That info should have already been in my record.
When she came back to the phone I told her just that. She then said she had to check on something else and put me back on hold. I was disconnected! I called back. She apologized saying she was wearing a headset and pushes the wrong button sometimes, disconnecting rather than putting it on hold/mute.
She told me the order was being faxed over for the EKG and the blood work, but since my husband gets home at 4:00 and the lab is only open until 5:00 at the hospital, she would send the blood work orders to the hospital lab and the lab in town because that lab was open until 6:00. That way if the EKG took longer than expected and the hospital lab was closed I could just go to the other lab.
I left a message at my husband’s work letting him know he needed to come straight home, which he did, packed up my manual wheelchair and off we went. We hit the Heart and Vascular Unit first and were told we were in the Heart and Vascular Cardiology Unit, the one we wanted was down the hall, but they would do it there for us. They couldn’t find the order, so that took some time, then the woman who was to do the test was very short with me.
She asked me how much I weigh and I told her, she decided not to take me into a room with a ‘smaller table’ and took me into a room with a larger table. She told me to take my bra off and lay back on the table. Did that ever hurt! She wanted to pull the leg rest portion of the table out, so I had to try to hold my legs out straight which is very difficult for me to do. The small of my back was just screaming, as were my hips. This woman fumbled around, trying to pull the leg rest out, broke it, tried to put it back together and all this time I’m in so much pain. When she finally got that adjusted she wanted me to slide back on the table and while I was leaning on my hands, tried to pull my arm back, pulling it right out from under me.
I stopped her and said, ‘You have to slow down here. I need to catch my breath, I’m in an awful lot of pain from that little exercise you just went through with the leg rest.” She moved the machine into the room and jammed it between the wall and the table, leaving me no place to rest my arm, but told me to put my arms down flat… all I could do was shake my head.
When she was putting the sticky patches on my body she was very careless in handling me. She had to raise my breast several times to put the patches under it and just let it fall each time she was finished, which I’m sure any woman can understand is very uncomfortable – lifting and then letting it fall from its own weight.
The machine was switched on all of about 30 seconds. She announced it was done, pulled off the wires, removed the sticky pads and called my husband to come in and help me get up off the table. What an ordeal!
We hurry down to the lab and discover that the blood work order isn’t there. They haven’t received anything. I told them it was supposed to be faxed to both locations, so the technician called the other lab and sure enough, it was there. They faxed it over to the hospital. The tech I’d been talking with didn’t want to draw my blood, as she’d done so at the other lab once before and remembered how difficult it was to draw my blood, so she got a ‘newbie’ to try.
The new tech was having a panic attack, saying I don’t know, why do you want me to do it? She asked me which arm and I told her the back of my left hand has always been the best site. She had another meltdown saying, “That hurts, that really hurts, I don’t want to hurt you. They always say that doesn’t hurt but I know it does. Are you sure you want me to do it in the back of your hand?” I told her yes, my veins collapse and roll, so the back of my hand is the most successful spot.
She did hurt me, more than anyone else who has ever taken my blood. I didn’t let her know that even though she kept saying, “I hurt you, I know I did.” She didn’t get a drop! The first tech had to come back and withdraw the needle and try again. She finally got the samples they needed.
So, as with all my previous experiences with the medical profession, none of this inspired confidence! The surgeon’s office personnel were incompetent and wanted to blame it on their own office procedures. Unbelievable