Friday, February 02, 2007

About A Brush With Chaos

As some of you may know, we recently had a “spot of bother” that had to be weathered. My blogging partner was utterly swamped by her job and family commitments, and I was blind-sided by a bit of medical mayhem. I could launch into a tirade about a health-care system that seems to be far less interested in caring for the patient than in watching out for the bottom- line, but I won’t. At least not this time.

On January 15th I took my friend to the hospital for what was supposed to have been a “routine” operation. A one hour surgery that might have her out the door later that evening—at the absolute latest, the next morning. My friend, a red-haired tornado possessing the stubbornness of a mule-team (I say this with the utmost loving conviction- having known her for thirty years) had insisted that I would be dropping her off at the hospital. Fortunately, I also possess mule-like stubbornness and completely ignored her request.

In our thirty years, we’ve been through a lot. Together we faced things young girls should never have to face. As we got older we were there for each other through marriages, pregnancies, miscarriages, fertility problems, divorce, and deployments. We’ve cried together and shared a lot of laughter too. So, being divorced, when she was asked to fill out her HIPA form and Health-Care Proxy it was natural for her to give those rights to information and decision making to me. Thank God.

That one hour surgery stretched into a surreal blur lasting twelve hours… and ultimately lasting two weeks. After the first 2 ½ hours passed, panic began to set in. When I finally found someone with information they asked me to wait to speak with the doctor. Never a good sign. Low blood pressure… 60/40… low hematocrit… “we’ll be keeping her in recovery a few hours longer”… “had to fix the bladder that was punctured during surgery”… “don’t leave—too many unknowns”.

Have you ever felt like the world was falling out from beneath your feet??? My first thought was of her seventeen year old daughter... at home... alone. What was I going to tell her? I pictured her as the feisty two-year old she’d been, insisting on taking a bath for the second time in an afternoon… reaching up to me with those dancing eyes and devilish smile… winding those sweet little arms around my neck…

1 ½ hours later my cell-phone rang. A nurse told me she would be connecting me with the “attending”. Never a good sign. I insisted on talking to the doctor face-to-face. I arrived to a flurry of activity. The anesthesiologist was consulting with a colleague. The words “pressure falling” drifted over me. A nurse handed me a box of tissues. The doctor explained that my friend’s pressure and hematocrit were dropping fast. They needed to go in again. Immediately. Did I know if she had any bleeding disorders?

The second surgery over, and four long hours later I was allowed to see her in the Surgical Intensive Care unit. Swollen to twice her normal size and ghostly white, she lay connected to monitors, tubes and drains snaking from her battered body. As the nurse escorted me in he asked if my friend, the red-haired tornado six weeks older than me, was my mother…

Little did I know that question was the beginning of another layer to the nightmarish hell we’d entered. Suddenly staff was questioning me, “Who EXACTLY are you again?” The fact that my name was on the paperwork meant little to them. My questions were met with raised brows, my presence regarded with smirks and suspicion. The idea that we were close friends was inconceivable. So inconceivable that the next morning the doctor questioned her as to our relationship. Worse yet, the anesthesiologist interrogated her so brutally that my friend became hysterical. After having lost 18… count ‘em… 18 pints of blood … still in ICU, playing a macabre game of hide-n-seek with death… my friend was subjected to this for what reason???

While I realize it was at least partially due to a “cover-your-ass” mentality that kicked in due to the fact that my friend had suffered, among other things, a cut artery in the first surgery that had gone undetected, I also believe it was due to close-minded, disconnected people who couldn’t comprehend a long-term bond between two women that didn’t entail sexual intimacy.

What a profoundly sad testament this is for our culture… have we become so disconnected that we are that distrustful of human caring? Are we capable of understanding relationships only within a sexual framework? If this is truly what we have become, then it’s no wonder we’re in trouble. Turn off the TV, unplug from your I-Pod, get out and connect in a meaningful way with the world. Rediscover the richness of human contact. Revel in it. And if you already have it, savor it… and count your blessings for the precious gift you’ve been given.



TomCat said...

Women, that sounds like a nightmare, and you must have been furious. That so exemplifies our system in which patient care has taken a back seat to profit. They screwed up, and they were scrambling to limit their own liability. I hope your friend is recovering rapidly and has a good lawyer for when she's better.


WOV .... Wow, A bad story told well, here's hoping things are looking up.
I'm a fan of writing, even if I don't do it very good myself. Putting you two in my Far Away Folks file.

Catmoves said...

You've both had a bad experience. Thank heavens your friend survived this botched up excuse for surgery. It occurs to me I did not see the words "law suit" anywhere. My caretaker (Wild Thing) is not to be trifled with by any one practicing medicine. Too many hospitals and medical service people seem to think the word "practice" means they have a right to do anything they want to our bodies. Go get 'em, gals.

Women on the Verge said...

And I only told you about the first 12 hours... the other 11 days sound like a bizarre comedy of errors. Would you believe that when I asked if she was on antibiotic I was told no, they don't believe in using them prophylactically!!! Mind you, this is two abdominal surgeries, not a stuffy nose... I'll be writing more about this. By the way, when my friend saw the doctor this week, the doc asked yet again... "What was your friend's full name again???"

colorado bob-

Thank you for the compliment! It was three weeks before I could get enough distance to be able to write about it and it was still tough. I wasn't sure I'd be able to do the story justice...


I'll second that! I'm very grateful that she pulled through. It's a testament to her incredible strength.. ok, the stubbornness doesn't hurt either... she actually told me today that she would concede that I was right to not drop her at the door...
As far as a lawyer goes, it's not something we've really talked about yet. She's still very weak... just took her abdominal drain out a few days ago. I have kept a journal though... for future reference... if anyone knows any good lawyers???

two crows said...

hey wov---
whereabouts are you? I know a good lawyer but she's here in the kc, mo area -- so probably no good to you.
I can't believe what you and your friend have been through. . . .
THEY cut her bladder. THEY cut her artery. then THEY subject her to questioning about your and her relationship as if it's 1] relevent and 2] their business.
when she has recovered, I'd say a lawsuit is absolutely the next item on the agenda.
shop around thoroughly for a lawyer. ask everyone you know. ask everyone she knows. ask them to ask their friends for referrals. then SUE!!!!!!!
these people cannot be allowed to get away with what they did.

Women on the Verge said...

two crows-

We're in upstate New York, but I appreciate the thought and the support!

I whole-heartedly agree!! I finally began responding to their questions with, " I'm the one whose name is on the paperwork". My relationship to her should have been a non-issue.

RUTH said...

A brilliant post......I hope your friend continues to recover well.

TomCat said...

Women, I had a feeling that might be the case. Had it been otherwise, you would have been back in full swing sooner. Again, I hope she continues to recover and that her lawyer is positively bloodthirsty.

two crows said...

hey wov--
how's your friend's recovery coming along?

two crows said...

and, your relationship IS a non-issue.
only their bigotry attempted to make it one.

Women on the Verge said...

two crows-

She's at home, up and about, but still very weak... also still monitoring her kidney and liver function...

As far as their bigotry... yes... I'd always thought it must be horrible for gay couples in that type of situation... and now I realize I never had a clue how truly horrible it could be.

Buck's Fizz said...

Hi. What a nightmare - yes, yes yes about the ignorance of society and putting us in little sexual boxes - there is nothing lik a great female friendship to sustain one through life - my mother is 83 and I swear it's her female friends that keep her going - she has been through 2 husbands!! As for me I am 17 years married but my husband doesn't know as mucha bout me as my female friends do!!
Hope she's going well. Good luck, Keep writing - you have a great style.

Women on the Verge said...

Buck's Fizz--

Thanks for the kind words! Cheers for the female friends who keep us going!!!

I tried getting to your blog to leave a comment, but your profile wasn't open...

I'm sure my blogging partner will be pleased that you liked her shoe post... shoe shopping is a definite passion of hers that she's tried teaching me the finer points of, but I just can't seem to get past being a "comfy shoe" kind of gal... it's sort of sad. I can admire them on her, but can't seem to move myself out of basic black and low heels.

Anonymous said...

Sister of my heart and soul,
How can I thank you enough for saving my life and sanity? Thank you for hearing my cries while I lay immobile and terrified. You advocated on my behalf when I was unable to comprehend any of what was happening to me. You took care of both my son and daughter with a love and concern only a second mother could show.

To all the wonderful bloggers here, Thank you for the well wishes! I am still very weak...more like a red zephyr instead of a tornado right now!! The lawsuit is still a little ahead of what my scrambled brains can handle at this time. I've only just been able to tell my children what REALLY happened.
Again, Thanks to all...
The red-haired driver of the mule team ;-)

Women on the Verge said...

Hey there Anonymous--

No fair making me get all teary-eyed like this in front of everyone!!

crpitt said...

Well i am glad to hear she is on the mend! but what a load of crap she and you had to go through!
Doctors and nurses know that you have to put your trust in them, unfortunately some of them abuse it!
I hope she continues to improve and will be ready to drive that mule team soon!

Claire xx

two crows said...

hey, anonymous and E--
so sorry for what you both had to go through.

and, anonymous--
just keep on keepin on gettin better--that's what matters--though those doctors don't seeme to understand that part.

Women on the Verge said...

Thanks two crows... I'm glad to see you've still got your computer hooked up :-)

Where are we on the Florida countdown?


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