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Micki Peluso

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Views from a Hospital Room
By Micki Peluso
Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Micki Peluso
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This is a true story of my good and bad times in the hospital.

Views from a Hospital Room

by Micki Peluso

Personality traits differ significantly among hospital patients, Physicians and caretakers, which can include: sympathy/aloofness, empathy/impatience, caring/apathy, patience and intolerance. Mistakes and miracles occur almost on an equal basis; patients, who should live, die and those who should have died live. Hospitals are buzzing hives of contradictions.

My bed is one of four in a well-lit room with large windows displaying the dull gray tones of a broad flat roof from the floor below. It's a Cardiac Care Center (CCU), so all of us are hooked up to monitors, which I find comforting. This is not my first time here, yet I note changes since my last visit. Maybe my "rate our performance" opinion letters were actually read.

The nurses are exceptionally pleasant, insisting that we ring the buzzer if we need them — that is not usually the case. The Personal Care Attendants (PCA) are surprisingly young with as many men as women. They smile, ask about our lives, our comfort and show genuine warmth and caring." Ryan," a very young handsome man works tirelessly as a nurse's assistant. His wide smile can't help but make patients smile back — a beatific smile. He offers to help bathe us, but I pass. He’s about the age of my grandsons and I really can't handle that, preferring the female PCAs who are no less enthusiastic in doing their jobs. Ryan will soon graduate as a nurse.

Another PCA, working years to support his family, decides it's time to make a career move into nursing. He’s a no-nonsense guy in his late 30s, and while he doesn't radiate joy in his work, his caring is deeply sincere and conscientious. One young man, looking like a teenage football player, sits patiently feeding pureed food to a demented old woman for a solid hour, until her tray is empty. He never sighs with impatience or abruptness, but handles her as a mother would tend her young child. The woman who can only live in the moment won't remember this selfless act but can in the now, as it unfolds. I think to myself that this young man is a true angel.

Judith, once a high–income professional, upon retiring, grew bored and chose to give herself to others in the lowly occupation of hospital cleanliness maintenance. A beautiful woman, she literally races from room to room, scrubbing, mopping, and disinfecting, all the while singing cheerful songs. Her face beams with happiness while disbursing gems of wisdom and optimism to all of us. I give her a signed copy of my book and she treasures it like gold. I feel my own discomfort receding just being in her presence.

One of my roommates was discharged late at night and I was annoyed when a maintenance man came in, turning on all the bright lights, to clean and prepare the bed for an incoming patient. Then as I watched him diligently scrub every section of the last patient’s area, humming while he worked, I realized that he liked his job and we talked as he worked.

As I was speaking to one of my nurses, she told me how she lost her husband and then her home and possessions during Super Storm Sandy the year before. We've were discussing my book which I always kept on my nightstand. I ask her how she could be so happy and smiling all the time." Life is full of losses," she says." I've learned to accept that and move forward with my life." Her attitude inspires me to rethink my own attitudes toward loss, pain and suffering.

Hospitals are far from perfect. The downside for me is a botched simple pacemaker battery change, which leads to five more surgeries and six months in and out of the hospital. Statistics report that approximately 400,000 deaths occur each year in hospitals, due to Doctor/nurse error or negligence, and three of every 25 patients will contact a potentially, deadly infection. I hold the dubious honor of contracting both a UTI (urinary tract infection) and a VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterititus) intestinal infection. It is a humiliating experience as the "Swab Team" bursst into my room in Haz-med uniforms, whisking me off to isolation. I did not have the infection but colonized it and was contagious to a small percentage of patients with a gene defect.

There are also times when I have to tell a new and experienced nurse said he needs more practice putting in IV needles. Another one has to be reminded to use gloves before touching me. One day when I got no sleep from the pain I took a late morning nap. My new bedmate was suddenly surrounded by doctors. The nurses reported her as sleeping when in fact she stopped breathing and nearly died. Since her heart rate is monitored that should not have happened. Mere coincidence causes her doctor to be visiting at that exact moment. Her life is saved.

There is much more to tell but to sum it up, while hospitality has improved dramatically, there is still much to be done for the protection of patients from errors in hospital contracted diseases. Don't even ask about hospital food. Being on a cardiac, salt free diet, I have the kitchen manager bought to me to discuss the salt content of his meals, which is far above my allowance and still have to have my meals made and brought in from home. There's a possibility I might not be allowed back. My last opinion poll on hospital overall performance may ensure that. And that's okay with me.

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Reviewed by Ronald Hull 5/19/2014
If one mistake caused you six surgeries, and you contracted two bugs while in the hospital, I can see your concern about hospital stays.

My 22 day stay in a hospital a year and a half ago that saved my life by lung surgery was quite different from earlier hospital stays where I was treated quite badly by nurses who had no concern for my paralysis. However, had I not had my attendants come in and do some necessary tasks, my stay might have been much different. One nurse even hinted to one of my attendants that she was sure that I would die. Guess I prove her wrong. Both doctors and nurses were quite enthralled with my books and one nurse confided that she was marrying the grandson of Mme. Chang Kai-shek whose mother was a former Hollywood star and wanted to write her experience.

The hospital had a high rating and was entirely different from an earlier stay about seven years before. I did pick up a severe rash on my back that dissipated after I returned home. The hospital food, while more cafeteria like than my usual diet, was quite good, so I ate everything in sight surprising the nurses who were used to having fickle people refuse to eat when sick. Still, I lost weight and muscle tone because of inability to move like I do at home.

A couple of typos of note:

I would say [doctor]/nurse. Doctors are no more important than the nurses. Burst has only one s. "… I have to tell a new and experienced nurse said he needs… [?]"
Reviewed by Edward Phillips 5/18/2014
Thanks for your assessment of your hospital stay. It was informative and well-stated. On my first hospitalization 64 years ago, I spent about a week in the hallway (no room elsewhere). I contracted a severe cold, and had to deal with nearly every visitor that passed by. The food was so bad I hid it in pages in magazines that I did not read. I was so relieved and thankful when I left about 8 days later. Yesterday I returned from my latest admission. I had a private room, separate temperature controls, color tv, private bath, and round the clock care from a highly competent staff. All were female, so I flirted with reckless abandon. Perhaps they believed I was in an advanced stage of mental deterioration. So much the better! I ordered meals from a menu, each prepared and served as in the better restaurants. My attending physician ran more tests than I could count, administered every prescription precisely on schedule, and even listened to my stale old jokes with good humor. My doctor, in good humor, stated "I hear you want to stay here for 2 more weeks. Is that right?" I scratched my head and said "Could you make that 3 instead?"

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