Highland Journal, a Miniseries: Part II

By Howard Dyckoff

She carries needles and tubes, held in slender fingers. She’s looking for human blood. I see earrings, and under her white jacket, jewelry, a sequined top. I catch a honeysuckle scent. Leather heels. She clearly has a life outside of all this bloodsucking.

It all happens in the early morning and the late afternoon. Other medical info is collected then and midday. And near midnight. Meaning I can’t sleep through the night. But these daily tests look for infections and key changes in patients, and show a very high standard of medicine. This is not always appreciated by my fellow patients.
One man on my floor screams at the sight of a needle and doesn’t stop until it is over. These can be superficial sticks for reading blood sugar level.   Another older man, not wiser, had 2 different lines in for his surgery. He complained about that but threw a fit when a lab tech insisted on getting a clean blood draw.
“Use one of those damned lines!,” he bellowed, also threatening the tech and his ancestry.  The head nurse sat him down and explained that the lines were mostly for adding fluids and medicines but that they could not be used for blood draws after they were first put in.
He reluctantly agreed, but wanted one of the 2 lines removed. Since it was after his surgery, the nurse said that should be possible. I had wondered about using the IV lines for blood draws and was happy to hear the explanation. That is just another detail that one learns by asking, or listening.  Also another detail that would be nice to learn up front.
On my floor, thought, there is always latitude for interpretation. Here is an example:
On one thermometer I seemed to be running a temperature between 99  and 100. On another, I was always around a healthy 96-97 degrees.
In many ways, the staff response to requests for help was friendly and consistently professional. But they would retreat into protocol when asked questions above their pay grade.  A few, however, would take the extra minute or two to solve a real  problem. And that would make up for every thing that had gone wrong up to that point.

I remember the extraordinary efforts my nurse had to go through in the long hours of my slow discharge process because the doctor signing the discharge order had prescribed the wrong pain killers.

Although I wore a red tag on  my wrist to indicate I had medical allergies, and stated my allergies out loud to my doctors and nurses every day, one script prescribed the a pain killer that I was allergic to. The busy doctor actually wrote the script in another part of the hospital, and so did not see my wrist band. But the allergy was printed on the prescription form the doctor filled out. Obviously someone was very tired at the end of the day.

Highland Hospital has a discharge pharmacy just for patients being released from the hospital. This is a god-send that reduces what could be am hour-long wait to only 5 or 10 minutes. But it closes at 7 pm. I received to signed prescription at 6:45 pm.

My wife filled the prescription I was allergic to as soon as the discharge order and script came in. When she brought the meds back, I saw the error and contacted my nurse who then spent almost 2 hours trying to get the attention of the doctor who signed my discharge and the erroneous script. My nurse did not have the authority to adjust the script and also could not discharge me without the correct medications. We were entirely in limbo.

I checked with my nurse several times and each time I was told the doctor had said they would come by in 10 or 15 minutes.  And 2 hours later, the doctor did show, somewhat apologetically.  She looked over my chart, nodded when I said that my allergy was prominent in the chart and in the binder they kept on me, then apologized again.  We finally got a correct script, but the discharge pharmacy had been closed for almost two hours.  That meant my wife had to go back to Highland in the morning to get the correct pain killer and also I was uncomfortable for several extra hours.

I recognize that part of the problem was that only one member of my team of doctors was actually on duty after 5 pm that evening and there were no other doctors from the team who might have had less work and could be contacted about the problem.  I was ready for discharge and was no longer a high priority patient.  Still, the system had trouble correcting my problem and discharging me in a timely and efficient manner.

I certainly did not need to be assigned to a bed after 6 pm and did not meed to be in pain the next morning. But staying over another day – something neither I nor the hospital wanted – would have taken less effort.  This needs a fix.

About Howard Dyckoff

Howard Dyckoff has lived in Oakland for over 40 years and has been involved with many community groups, including Oakland Digital and Oakland Local, Block by Block, the East Oakland Boxing Association (EOBA), and CBE. A New York transplant, Howard attended Laney College, where he wrote for the Laney Tower newspaper and was elected editor He has served as the Berkeley Free Clinic’s Outreach Coordinator, and also worked as an information technology professional at Chevron, Sybase, and Wells Fargo. Howard has been a regular contributor to Oakland Local and online publications such as TechTarget and Linux Gazette. He currently does event photography around the Bay Area. View all posts by Howard Dyckoff →

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