Monday, June 15, 2015
My Convalescent-Couch Companion
This is Bebert, the only wildlife I will be encountering for quite some time -- not counting the birds and squirrels I can see through the windows from my convalescent couch. He actually IS kind of wild, one of three kittens we snatched from a feral momcat when he was barely four weeks old, a couple of years ago. He became tame and cuddly enough as a small kitten, but as he matured he became very skittish, running in fear even from those of us who have tenderly cared for him from the first. But wonder of wonders, since I've come home from my knee-repair surgery last Friday afternoon, Bebert has spent much time curled on the back of the couch that has become my bed until I can navigate the stairs to my upstairs bedroom once more. And even more wonderful, he has actively sought my caresses, pushing his lovely little face into my hand and begging for ever more lavish scratchings under his chin and around his ears, purring madly all the while. I will never say that gaining his sweet affection was worth the agony that placed me here on this couch, but I will admit that his furry companionship is helping to ease my confinement.
And believe me, I am grateful for all the comfort I can gather. My surgery turned out to me more complicated than expected, with the kneecap shattered into more than four pieces, rather than the two pieces the X-rays revealed. Some fragments could not be saved, but the others were drilled through and wired together to form a semblance of the original, and the knee sewed up with the expectation that healing could now begin, 10 days after the original accident.
Well, now that I am home and with adequate pain medication, I do believe that healing will progress. But that first horrifying night in the hospital could only have set the healing process back, as I writhed in nauseating, throbbing agony that would not let me sleep or even rest my pain-tensed body. The pain medication I was offered -- Hydrocodone -- is but one step up from aspirin, hardly adequate to relieve severe post-surgical pain, especially after I had been taking the much more effective Oxycodone for 10 days as I awaited the surgery. I couldn't believe that the same surgeon who had prescribed the Oxycodone pre-surgery would now step DOWN the scale of pain relief following this operation. But the nurses would not hear my arguments, assuring me that this was standard protocol, nor would they seek further orders from the surgeon when the Hydrocodone obviously proved ineffective. The most terrible night of my life ensued, especially since I had to climb out of bed every two hours to a bedside commode to empty my bladder of the liters of IV fluids pouring through me. I have never felt so helpless in my life. Or so furious, because I knew that this level of pain was completely treatable (I worked as a Nursing Assistant with Hospice for 15 years and had witnessed the mercy of morphine many times.)
I expressed this fury toward my surgeon when he visited the next morning, only to hear him express his surprise that I had not been given the intravenous Dilaudid he had ordered. WHAT?!!! Yes, the relief I had sought had been withheld from me, despite the surgeon's orders, despite my nightlong begging for relief. The doctor quickly demanded that I be given the IV meds, and in less than 30 seconds I could feel the pain drain from my body and I could rest.
I recount this experience not just for the drama of it, but also to alert my friends to seek adequate advocacy should they ever be in similar situations. There must have been SOMEONE who could have corrected this abuse, for abuse it most certainly was. I felt like screaming and throwing things, but I was brought up to be too polite to defend myself this way. I wonder if any action would have been taken if I had pitched some hysterics other than my quiet moans and groans and tears. I have written to the hospital demanding to know why I was left to suffer so. I wonder if anyone will answer me.
Ah, but it's good to be home. I have my dear husband to tend to my needs, my sweet Bebert to bring his furry comforts to my convalescent couch, and most important of all, a nice big bottle of Oxycodone pills to ease my pain and help me get back up and moving again. After a bit, perhaps I will start exploring some of the region's handicapped-accessible trails. I do need to get outdoors.
Update, Wed., June 17: My dear friends, your words of support and commiseration (see comments) have done much to console me, and I thank you very much for reaching out to me. I did get a phone call today from a Patient Care Advocate from Saratoga Hospital (after leaving a phone message as well as writing the letter), and I was assured that an investigation would take place to try to determine why my surgeon's orders had been overlooked or ignored. And also, why no effort was made to obtain more effective medication when the prescribed meds proved inadequate. The PCA promised that I would hear back from him regarding the results of this investigation. Obviously, nothing the hospital does now can change the suffering I endured, but I certainly hope that safeguards may one day be put in place to ensure no one else has to suffer the way I did.