You work hard all your life. You retire, you get your pension and then fork out big bucks for healthcare, not to mention Medicare premiums. When you become ill and have no other way to get treated, you assume that the big hospital in your community would be a place to find health and peace of mind. Especially when this hospital touts “Excellence in Elder Care” and “State of the Art Technology.” What they fail to mention are a lot of things in between.
Now my mother, was in and out of this hospital for 2+ years before she passed away 14 years ago. She or we as a family, never had any complaints. She was treated with care and dignity. (Remember that word: Dignity).
Enter dad. A litter over a week ago dad was feeling pretty ill and it seemed to be his stomach or something he may have eaten. He was taken to the hospital around midnight and they diagnosed him almost immediatley with pancreatitis. I know this is a serious illness and it’s especially bad for the elderly (dad is 78). I got there the next morning, Saturday, and found my way up to the 5th floor. Something felt very strange to me, actually had more of a creep-factor feel to it, not only getting off the elevator, but walking into the pod (unit) he was in. He was way at the end of the hall and I saw all these older patients in their rooms and what struck me as strange (once again) was that there was NO ONE at the nurses station. Or in any of the rooms I had passed by. Like a Ghost Ward. Just one person sitting at a large screen watching each patient on a monitor. After maybe, oh, an hour or so I went out to look for a nurse. Someone, anyone with information. A nurse finally appeared and asked me what meds dad was on and I told her what he had already told the woman hours before. She said ‘Yes he has pancreatitis and the doctor will be in later.’ I stayed all day, no doctor came. While I was there I noticed the room looked a bit dank. It’s a hospital, I know, not the Four Seasons but this room looked like it hadn’t seen a mop or sponge in a year. The bathroom was right next to dad’s bed and I was tyring to pass time, and jiggled the handle to the bathroom door and it was locked. I rinsed my hands with soap and water and noticed the sink was plugged up and didn’t drain. There looked what appeared to be phlegm stuck to the side of the sink. More than disgusting is what I said out loud.
I left to go home and no nurses were to be seen, not even in any of the rooms I passed by on the way out. They were GONE. The next day we arrived and the same scenario was at play. Almost like the second installment of the movie HALLOWEEN, where the movie is set in a hospital and there is one nurse and maybe a candy striper throughout the whole moviein the hospital. This floor was a joke! I saw a nurse (finally, after tracking one down) and she asked what I needed. What I need? Tell me what’s happening to my dad. I asked why was the bathroom door locked and she completely ignored me, never gave me any kind of answer. My dad was on pain meds but nothing that would make him hallucinate. He talked weak but he had his bearings. He told me that he was seeing things, faces on the wall (right behind where I was sitting). I asked “whose faces?” and he said he didn’t know. And the man was not crazy. Day 3, I asked again why the bathroom was locked, this time to a nurse I happened to see walk by the room, and once again I was blown off. As I sat in the darkened, dirty room, I spotted dirty gloves under a chair, caps to syringes or caps to medication bottles strewn on the floor. I asked dad where his barf bag was because he seemed to need one right about then, and couldn’t find it. After searching, I found it, upside down on the floor at the head of his bed. I left it there. I had seen this yesterday too when I had searched for one, and my mistake, I assumed the housekeeping staff would have been in and clened up a bit. This was the same bag, still laying where it had been. I don’t know what he was using because this bag had been on the floor for over a day. Then I noticed black smudge marks on the floor and didn’t give it much thought. Later that morning, I helped dad up to use the bathroom. But as usual, the dang door was locked. I went out to ask a nurse but found no one anywhere in sight. I went to the ‘camera-monitor-watching-nurse’ at the counter and he said “I’m sorry, I cant look at you but I am listening. What do you need?” I told him I needed to see a nurse, someone, anyone who is in charge of my father. He told me that the nurses were ‘split’ that day and they are running behind. Running behind? Running behind what? This floor was filled with patients and these folks needed care too. And a specific daughter needed answers. Another hour passes and a nurse with a cocky attitude came in and told me right up front “I’m in a hurry. What do you want to know?” Uh, Why is the door locked to the bathroom? Why is this room looking like some campsite from hillbilly junction. Why is my father’s abdomen the size of a giant boulder? What else is wrong with him?” He told me that “He HAS pancreatitis, that makes the stomach swell.” Ok……… what else is happening to him? “Oh, his white blood cell count is highly elevated, other things are very low and that’s about it. Now, I have 3 hours worth of patients to catch up on so I need to go see them.” It was a complete ‘WHAT IN THE HELL’ moment is this? I was stunned. I went out to look for someone to get a name and number for who is actually in charge and no one was around. I went home, looked on the hospital’s website and found an email contact. I shot off a letter and instantly received an auto-reply note saying ‘Your message will be answered in 24-48 hours.’ Within a half hour, I got a reply from a woman named Jennifer and she said she would pass my complaint on to a patient advocate.
Dennis and I went back after dinner that day and lo and behold, the doctor came in. She told us that ‘we almost lost him yesterday.’ I asked,’Say what?’ She said something happened over night with his kidney function (his kidneys were fine when he came in) and they had crashed and he went into kidney failure but she pumped him up with so much fluid, that he came out of it. I asked WHY didn’t anyone call me? Or tell me this earlier today when I was here and asked the nurse his status, when I actually saw one? She said “I don’t like to say anything until I absolutely have to?” Ok, so I would receive THAT CALL, where you’re told your loved one has passed on? Oh for the love of God! In between, I saw an infectious disease control doctor who said ‘I can’t find an infection, he is fine.’ Fine? What glue have you been sniffing? Yet his attending keeps telling us all week, ‘he has an infection, somewhere, but I can’t pinpoint it.’
I went back the next morning and when I entered his unit, no surprise here, no one around. Just ‘video watching’ guy. I walked into dad’s room and saw he had another new patient in the other bed. (I have to pass by this bed to get to dad’s). This poor man was a mess, missing limbs and was pretty much out of it. The gentleman who had been in the bed before this new eldery man came in, had overheard my dad and I talking the day before about how no one comes in to check on him. The man told me, “He’s right. They don’t even come in during the night and I know, I can’t sleep so I am up all night.’ That’s what my dad had been telling me because he had been saying this since day one. Dad also couldn’t get comfortable in the bed. Not that it was an uncomfortable bed, just that he had a weird feeling in the bed that kept him antsy and agitated. I found someone after hours of looking, and they said they’d get him a new bed. I got up to strecth my legs, on dad’s side of the room, and I was sticking to the floor. I looked down, really well, and saw that the floor had big black streaks, almost as if someone rode a bike in there- because there were tread marks (from shoes) running right through these sticky marks on the linoleum. There was a trail: from the bed to the bathroom door. I asked dad “What the hell? Has anyone been in here to clean?” He said ‘NO.’ Not once since I have been here’ and he’d been there 4 or 5 days now. I had offered to give him a sponge bath early on and he said ‘NO”. He had baby wipes they had given him and basically he was told to ‘have a go at it.’ He then told me he has to urinate so badly during the day and night, and when he gets out of bed (which is hard to do when you are hooked to IV’s, and the pole you have to lug, not to mention he had to unplug it from a wall) it’s miserable when you get up and can’t open the door! On these ‘bathroom attempts’, the door had been locked so he couldn’t help it and went on the floor. He said he called on the button for help, no one came. He then told a nurse (whenever it was that they decided to make an appearance) about what happened, but no one came to clean up. (This had happened the day before, but had also happened earlier in the week, as I had been sticking to the floor for days). I get up to go over to the sink and it is filled to the top of the basin with dark brown/green water and 2 fruit loops were floating in it. I think I barfed a little, I was so grossed out and appalled. I got dad out of bed and was going to take him for a walk and complain once again, ‘if’ I found human contact out on the floor (highly unlikely). Dad and I got out the door and his nurse appeared out of nowhere. Dad told him, “Go look at something disgusting…..my sink.” The nurse went in, came out and I heard him on the phone calling maintenance I assume. He said “I think the sink could be clogged.” You THINK? My God, my 3 year old grandson could tell it’s clogged. And the fruit loops? Dad couldn’t have anything, water or solids by mouth the first 5 days in there. It’s as if a nurse or an aide (which I had yet to see an aide) tossed the other patient’s food in there and just walked away? It had to be that. I also told the nurse who phoned in the clogged sink issue, that “the floor is unacceptable and unhealthy, and why is that bathroom door LOCKED?” I was gettng so sick of asking that question. He replied ‘yeah, it has to be locked.’ That is NO answer. Right before I was to leave, a housekeeper came in and looked at the sink. He said he’d make sure it was fixed. Dad told me again before I left, that he was still seeing these ‘faces’ and they were not very nice looking people. And he didn’t know who they were. I went home and called the patient advocate and told her that the room was a wreck and I would be stunned if he didn’t get a staph infection after being in that filthy environment. (I took photographs of the deplorable conditions). She assured me they would get right on it. By now, I have lost all faith with these people.
After arriving the next morning, it was as if The Cleaning Fairies spent the entire morning in there. The housekeeper who I saw the day before who checked on the clogged sink, was mopping the floor, cleaning the bathroom, picking up all the garbage under the bed and under the chairs (all trash from the staff). I told him my dad had been having accidents because of that DAM door being locked. (Dad wasn’t there at this time. He was out for an MRI). The housekeeper asked me “You do know what floor this is, don’t you?” I said, yeah 5 North. He told me ‘This is the SUICIDE WATCH floor. The doors will never be opened. They have to be locked because there is a history of patients trying to do themselves in, in there.’ I told him “Ok, my dad’s here for pancreatitis. The guy over there has no legs and no arm. I doubt he’ll be using that bathroom. He asked me, “Didn’t you notice the garbage can here and the camera right above your head, and the guy out there watching the monitors on screen?” Yeah, I had noticed the brown paper bags lining the garbage can and I thought it was VERY strange that they have a nurse glued to watching those monitors, yet they don’t give a dam about having any nurses on the floor. Basically, this position was a babysitter.
My dad, and the other patients on this floor had absolutley no DIGNITY at all. They were treated like people in an asylum (in my mind this is how an asylum would look)…. in beds, no clean linens for days, no one to wash them up, no one to clean their floors, sinks, toilet, bedding. When the patient’s family member, me, HAS to call an advocate on more than one occassion, there is something wrong. And what is kind of amusing, this advocate works for the hospital so it’s not like an outside agency. The treatment of my dad on that floor was a step up from being a bridge and tunnel dweller.
I went home and called the phone number of the patient advocate and demanded that they moved him off the floor. ASAP! The advocate, a nice woman, was telling me that ‘we don’t like to use those words, sucicide floor’, but HELLO…..LADY, it is! She told me she would put in for a change of rooms and it wouldn’t be today more likely (this was day 6) because of the overcrowding. I told her to GET HIM OUT OF THERE! Within a few hours, he was moved to another floor and a private room. And he also got a new bed. In his new room, instantly, he told me he didn’t see any of those faces anymore. Stepping off the elevator was a welcome change. There was a fresh coat of paint in earth tones and the room was a complete 360 of that dank, dark and depressing room up on 5.
Today is day 12 of him being there and it is not going the way I had hoped. He is still SO sick and I can only find out bits and pieces because the attending physician doesn’t come in when I am there, or she knows I am there and doesn’t come in. (Bible swear!) I have to hear from charge nurses, nurses that can explain it correctly or one of the many specialists that are treating him. The 4th floor nurses are always around, come in often and are within sight. I had 6 days on the un-manned floor and 6 days on this new floor and I couldn’t ask for a better nursing staff he is now receiving. (It’s just the lack of communication between his attending physician, the other specialists and ME- that is causing the aggravation). He has now been put on nutrition through a pic line (feeding intravenously) and has a lot of other issues that are very serious. But I insist, as does my husband, that those 6 days he spent in a ward for people who want to do themselves in, and having no nursing care, has played into all the problems he has now. When the nurses who are caring for him now (and each day he has a new nurse) hear he was up on 5 for 6 days, they ask me “WHY?” and then make gestures with their eyes opening as wide as frisbees. Each one (and I know of 5 nurses off hand) have said- and made- this exact expression.
He’s still on pain meds every few hours and has not seen any of those faces as he described as being torturous, since he arrived in this new room and new floor. I believe what he was seeing, truly happened up that. I know I was never at ease in that room.
But at the end of the day, I just wonder to myself and Dennis: What happened to the days when a nurse came in to check on you? This pertains to the 5th floor. When he was on the American Horror Story ward- 5 North (as I dub it), there were times when his IV line had air in it (per the IV monitor) and it was anywhere from 45 minutes to 50 minutes before anyone would come in. Or if he went into a vomiting and gagging jag and I needed help…. I should have called 911. I would look around for staff, everywhere imagineable. I even peeked into other rooms for a warm bodied nurse and NONE were ever around. It’s almost as if the staff was told to relay to the patients- ‘Hey, if you want to off yourselves, then you can just lie in your beds and think about what you’ve done. This is your punishment.” I am not being sarcastic. After the experiences up on that floor, I believe this, and after talking with nurses on dad’s NEW floor, I’m not off in my theory.