Who’s your Healthcare Advocate

Last week my neighbor had an unfortunate accident in where she fell and broke her wrist (8 bones, to be exact). Because I was at ILSHRM11 on the day that this happened, another neighbor was gracious in taking her to the ER at Sherman Hospital.

I heard reports that said that while she was waiting for pain medication and attention, the ER nurse was busy chatting it up on her cell phone, instead of providing care for my friend. Okay, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that maybe she had a family issue she needed to deal with. They sent my friend home after having taken X-Rays and setting her arm and referred her to a neighboring Orthopedic Surgeon for the very next day.

When I got home from ILSHRM and after getting the call, I decided to stay over with her to act as her nurse and distribute her pain meds, which didn’t work on her and she had told them that the medication they gave her for pain has never helped her in the past to manage her pain. The very next morning, I called the Doctor that was referred to us, and of course, they could not get her in that day (perhaps they were leaving early to go play golf – who knows) and we talked with them about the pain meds and they nonchalantly said, “well, that’s all we can give her and we can get you in the next day.” So we went through another day and night of pain.

The next day I took her to the Dr.’s office (and we had a certain name for a specific Dr at this office) and filled out the paperwork and were in the room waiting. The doctor did eventually come in and looked at the X-Rays and said, “Well, you’re gonna need surgery, how’s about tomorrow?” (By the way, we noticed the Doctor’s name was different from the one we had been referred to so we mentioned that and his response was, “Oh, they told me to come in this room, do you want me to go get the other Dr?” )

By that time, we just wanted to get this going. I did speak up and ask what other options were available other than surgery and he proceeded to tell us that they could try and reset the bones and cast it the  OLD-FASHIONED WAY and see if it worked. And I explained to my friend that was another alternative. It felt to me like they needed to fill their surgery slot for the next day, but I’m paranoid of Dr.s after having 4 surgeries in two years (in the past).

So we scheduled the surgery for the next day for 2:00, the nurse told us to be there at 12:30 to get prepped. We did just that – she was back in the room by 1:00 or so. During this time, we talked first with a nurse who spoke broken English and mentioned that my friend had occurrences (even in the ER when given the medicine) to have anxiety attacks and we just wanted to make them aware. We literally talked with 6 or 7 nurses and 1 Anesthesiologist and two nurses from surgery within the course of two and a half hours. And all of them that came in had a completely different story on the anxiety from “we understand you had issues with the medication” to “you have anxiety attacks in hospitals.” It reminded me of that game we used to play where we would sit in a circle and whisper in someone’s ear some saying and by the time it’s passed around the circle and get’s back to us, it’s something completely different.

People were becoming restless (as we were) waiting and finally someone comes in and says, “Your Doctor thought it was at 3, not 2” and then that person (from surgery) mumbled under their breath and looking at their watch as if to say, “It’s shift change, I got places to be.”

The doctor finally came and they took her back. She said none of the people who came in from surgery, including the Anesthesiologist, were the same folks that came in the room, looked down her throat and asked her about the anxiety.

She had the surgery, the Dr. brings me back and shows me his awesome work on the X Ray he took and left.

She was in recovery two hours and the pain would not go away, after the Dr. told her she would be in no pain, he would make sure of it. They were trying to discharge her when we asked them to call the doctor to see if there was a different kind of medication that actually worked for her, but he insisted this particular med was all they could give her. She wound up staying overnight just to get relief from the pain, because they could give her something in a drip, but not to take home (SAY WHAT?).

I picked her up the next day, the Dr. gave her a script for THAT SAME PAIN MED that doesn’t work. While I was there, she knocked her IV and it came out and she started bleeding all over the place, I called the nurse, he came in – went out to get something to bandage it up and finally came back about 10 minutes later, by then the bleeding had stopped. Needless to say, she couldn’t wait to get out of there.

The next day, she noticed she was having a terrible sore throat and couldn’t swallow, eat or hardly drink but was told that was normal from the breathing tube.

Two days later was her follow-up appointment to the Dr.’s office. We went and the nurse pulls the bandage off her arm, ripping it from her wrist and causes immense pain (she does apologize). Then we see the Dr. there are no X-Rays, he doesn’t show her anything that he has done but says he was glad he went ahead and did the surgery cause she has soft bones.

She mentions to him that her throat is still very sore, she can hardly talk or swallow or eat – he barely looks down her throat and says that’s normal. He then proceeds to say “If you continue to have problems you can call the Anesthesiologist.” REALLY? He couldn’t even give us the name of the person.

Then sends her home with another script of the SAME PAIN MED that doesn’t work. And the nurses acted as if they had never re-wrapped a person’s arm before. I had to re-do it two times when we got home. I did call and talk with the hospital but they couldn’t give us a name of someone to talk to about her throat, but told her to gargle.

Two days later, my friend’s throat is excruciatingly painful and she’s in tears saying I have to get some help. I took her to immediate care down the road and the Dr. there was flabbergasted when she looked into her throat saying “You have a bad infection and you have puss all over you uvula” (that little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat). And also stated she’s going to lose a part of it when it falls off. (HOLY CRAP – my friend is in tears). This Doctor stated that it probably happened from too large a tube being used and / or force. So she put her on antibiotics. She’s feeling better from that and is now able to eat soft foods.

During this whole thing, I expected Larry, Moe and Curlie to come out from somewhere – it seemed as if we both felt like we were in some kind of Twighlight Zone episode or Candid Camera where they play a joke on you.

At the very beginning of this, I was infuriated and “liked” the Hospital’s page on Facebook just so I could let them know the kind of care we were experiencing and I must say, at least they had their Social Media folks in place to deal with these kinds of things and were on top of it, emailing me. We are waiting for final treatment before going over all of this with them.

Who’s YOUR Advocate?

This shows you how important it is to have another person going to bat for you in these kinds of situations. What if it had just been her trying to do all this while she was in the middle of pain and having to make these decisions all by herself. It’s unfortunate, but this happens all the time.

Having another person available to ask questions, find out alternatives and to not just settle for what the Healthcare Providers tell you – is so important. Whether it’s you, your children, your aging parents or a friend. Keep this in mind and have someone already prepared to take on these challenges BEFORE a crisis.

(my apologies for this post being so long)

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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4 Responses to Who’s your Healthcare Advocate

  1. Shon Ingram says:


    This is an awesome post! I run into these situations every single day and it make me more and more glad that I have chosen the profession I did. Someone has GOT to be an advocate for these seniors! Thank you for the awesome job you do! Keep up the good work! God Bless!


  2. Susan Avello says:

    I’m sorry it had to be at your expense 🙂 – we WILL get through this.


  3. Lorrie says:

    love your post. unfortunately, this only scratches the surface and i’m afraid we could write a book on the medical mishaps we’ve encountered together. …and it’s not over yet!
    i’m really glad you were my health advocate. people really need one because the person receiving care is in pain and can’t really focus on what has to be done. Thanks Susan:)


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