Saturday, November 24, 2018

A very competent and cheerful medical center

For 21 days, from late October to mid-November, I was a patient at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center here in Boise. On October 24, 2018 I had routine abdominal hernia repair surgery at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. I came in at 5:30 AM and was sent home in mid-afternoon.

But by late the next morning I had not urinated. I called the surgeon’s office, and was told to come to the emergency room (ER). (I thought that overnight my bladder had overfilled, and simply inserting a catheter would drain it). In the ER they ultrasonically scanned my bladder and found it was empty. They told me my kidneys had shut down (renal failure), and admitted me. (My digestive tract also had stopped moving, which is called an ileus). Soon my kidneys started up again, and eventually my digestive tract began moving. Finally I was moved to rehab, and stayed for eight more days.

On November 19, 2018 I blogged about Communicating during a personal medical crisis. In that post I described interactions with physicians who led my care. This post is about the rest of that impressive team – who were both highly competent and very cheerful. There were very few glitches.

At my bed there was a controller for the television (with a speaker) and three call buttons for contacting the nurse’s station. A large button was for general use, and two smaller buttons had symbols for medication and toilet.   

Two key team members are the nurse and nursing assistant. They introduced themselves at the beginning of each shift. The assistant helped me get to the bathroom and back using a walker, and got me a glass of ice water for at my bedside table. Twice a day the assistant scanned my patient id bracelet, and took vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, oxygen).  

The nurse handled intravenous and oral medications, and injections. When I was moved to a room in rehab the nurse noticed that the lower control on the hospital bed for raising my knees was not working, and had the bed replaced by one that was. While moving the bed back toward the wall she bumped the connector for the call button, and it disconnected. I was out of contact for a half hour until someone stopped by.  

Before rehab, at about 5:00 AM a lab person came by to take a blood sample. A couple times she sighed, changed which of my arms to try, and then got done quickly and almost painlessly.   

When you are lying in a hospital bed, meals are a highlight of the day. Around 8:00 AM, noon, and 5:00 PM someone from food service delivered them. Just one time I received an inedible serving of underdone butternut squash. Also a few times a condiment like a butter pat or jam serving was omitted.  Otherwise every meal was good or excellent. The grilled halibut and salmon were very tasty. I also really looked forward to a visit from another food service person who came by to let me place my (soft diet) orders for the next day.

The environment services people who cleaned my room also were cheerful.

Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) also came to visit. PT got me out of bed with a two-wheel walker - first just moving around the room and later going down the hall. OT helped me shave and start brushing my teeth after meals. They got me thinking about how I was going to manage when I got back home.

When I got to the rehab, I had 1-1/2 hours a day each of both PT and OT. I told OT that at home we already had a $ 70 four-wheel walker from Harbor Freight with a seat and basket (as shown above). They told me that was not their preferred design, but to bring it in and work with it, since it was what I would be using. Eventually I was allowed to get out of bed and move around the room on my own with that walker.

At night a medical center is not a restful place for a light sleeper like me. The Life Flight helicopter ambulance typically took off or landed at least once. One time it came at 3:00 AM and 3:25 AM. (My wife described the sound as like what you’d hear if you leaned over a lawnmower while it was running). Usually I got the nursing assistant to leave the room door closed, and the nurse to put the cover over the display for the computer work station. 

An image of a Cheerful Nurse came from Openclipart.

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