Friday, August 28, 2009

A bite to chew

I am buried under a pile of excel spreadsheets and lists of Things That Need To Get Done, so what I want to do is tell you about this article that you should read, even if you don't want to. Which, you probably won't want to, because it's Friday and this is not uplifting material, and it's thought provoking and horrifying and if you're like me, you'll feel tears well up in your eyes while you're reading it, not to mention that it's approximately the same length as the Bible so will take you a nice long while to read.

But, it must be known. It is the story of what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

You may have already heard some of the story, heard of how some of the hospital staff administered lethal doses of morphine and other drugs, causing the deaths of several very ill patients after they waited for days to be rescued, after the electricity and generators shut off and the water stopped running and the hospital was surrounded with sewer water and the most critical patients, who were on ventilators, had already died.

But the whole story doesn't seem to have been told until now. I started reading it, believing one thing, and finished reading it believing another. Something happened to the people running that hospital. I can't imagine how horrifying it must be to be in a situation like that, with hundreds of people counting on you to save them. But because of the way these people were trained, and the time they've spent over the years telling people what's best for them, they made a decision that was very, very disturbing.

This is a story that needs to be a film. Protocols need to be developed out of what happened during those awful days. Everyone who works in a hospital needs to know what the process should be in case something like this happens at the hospital they work in.

This is a story that illustrates behavior exhibited by a majority of doctors and nurses every day. Doctors and nurses are, admittedly, the ones with all of the medical training, but that doesn't mean they know what's best for everyone's health all the time. This is a story that illustrates how people need to stand up for what they believe in and not be intimidated into complying with something they know is very, very wrong.

When Hubs was in the hospital a few months ago for his appendectomy, he was lying in a bed in the emergency room, and nurses would come in and out and tell him what was what. At one point, a nurse came in with a vial of dilaudid and aimed a needle-full of it toward Hubs' IV. "What is that?" we asked. "Dilaudid." The nurse kept moving toward the IV. "I'm not sure I want that." The nurse's facial expression did not change. After all, it was 4 a.m. and he was probably tired of whiny patients asking annoying questions. "Believe me, you want it." He injected the dilaudid. Hubs' eyes widened and he sank back into the bed.

This is how you are treated in the hospital. You are officially their ward if you have the misfortune of needing immediate medical attention. Your opinion is worth little to nothing to them -- after all, they know best and you will comply. This is why I have vowed to stay as far from doctors and hospitals as possible, unless I have an undeniable need to see or visit one. I can defend myself only so much. I have no medical training and couldn't tell you the first thing about what dilaudid, or any other drug, really is or what it does to you. And if someone decides that they are certain they know what is best for me, whether I want it or not, I am doubtful that I could defend myself from that while lying helplessly in a hospital bed.

So read this, and remember it. And then, enjoy your weekend.

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