Hospitals...Adding Insult to Injury

When a biker is injured and contacts me, they are, much of the time, in a hospital. I go there to see them. They can hardly come to my office. I do this throughout the state of Michigan. So, I've been thinking about hospital care, and sometimes the lack thereof. I have, this summer alone, three clients who were in wrecks, were hospitalized, and picked up serious infections while in the hospital. That simply should not happen. You expect to be healed...not to be made worse.

We've all heard the horror stories about surgeons accidentally amputating the wrong body part or operating on the wrong organ. These are not "old wives' tales." Medical mistakes kill or injure 1.5 million Americans each year. It doesn't matter who you are or what hospital you go to, these mistakes can happen. Actor Dennis Quaid, in 2007, had infant twins who almost died when they were accidentally given 10,000 units of the blood thinning drug heparin. The correct dosage should have been 10 units. Comedian Dana Carvey has spoken about his open heart surgery where they bypassed the wrong cardiac artery.

So, how do you prevent these mistakes from happening? If you are an inpatient in a hospital, remember that you are in an environment that has sick people who have infections. Any time health care personnel come to your room, ask them if they've washed their hands. Also, those stethoscopes which seem like no big deal, need to be cleaned before they are placed on your body. Who knows where, or who, it was on last? The biggest germ magnets in your room are the TV remote and the telephone. You have no idea about the medical condition of the person who last touched them. So, after you touch them, make sure you have hand sanitizer and use it.

I know it may sound crazy, but MARK THE BODY PART you are having surgery on if you have the opportunity. Experts advise using a marker to clearly identify the area. When I had my left leg surgery, after an accident, I asked the nurse, before I went in to surgery, if I could borrow her pen for a moment. I clearly wrote on my leg "CUT HERE", with an arrow.

Experts say that 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning is the best time for elective surgery. The reason is that there are more hospital beds available after the weekend and being the first scheduled surgery, insures that you are likely to have fresh surgeons available. The weekends are the worst. Hospital staff are stretched thin as the beds begin to fill. Even worse, is a holiday weekend. I had a motorcycle accident, many years ago, on Memorial Day Weekend. Not good. When I got to the ER, they had all the rookies on duty. An intern told me he would have to put a chest tube in my chest because of my partially collapsed lung. I said, "no offense, but I am not about to have an intern insert a chest tube in me. Where is the attending physician?" He told me I'd have to wait a while. I told him that since I was lying on a gurney anyway, I'd wait. When the attending physician got to me he said "I don't think a chest tube will be necessary. Let's monitor you over night and see if the lung inflates itself." It did.

It's up to you to be informed, and take care of your own best interests, if you find yourself in this less than ideal situation.