ON A PERSONAL NOTE By Maramis
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed patient care?
Last week I wrote about the lack of nursing care that a discharging nurse foisted upon my friend, Mary, during her discharge from St. Rose Hospital, Sienna Campus. A quick synopsis of that incident is that the nurse was wheeling her out (to be discharged) at a much faster rate than would be usual or safe, and “accidentally” or thoughtlessly put on the brake for a quick stop (Mary still doesn’t know why) and caused my friend to scream out in severe pain, since she had just had hip replacement surgery and that sudden stop made it feel like her leg was rammed up into her pelvis. Then to make matters worse, the nurse left the scene, without even checking to see how much she was hurt or making a report. It caused a setback in her healing, to say nothing of all that additional pain.
She has sent for her records to see what, if anything, that nurse wrote up in her discharge report about that incident. She will continue her story when she gets that full report.
But this week I can write about the other patient I started to write about under the heading of “Something a patient in a hospital would
never want to hear.” The following is his story, in his own words: “On July 8th, I was admitted to the emergency room at Spring Valley
Hospital, after calling 911, due to severe abdominal pain. The doctor said I had several issues, such as hiatal hernia, perforated bowel, and two ulcers.
While waiting for the promised pain medication, the female doctor who diagnosed my problems sat at a desk directly across the hall from my room. Watching her interact with the nurses and staff was my only stimuli. As I am watching, I see her pick up the station phone directly above her seat.
Nothing compelled me to listen to her various conversations until a particular one I overheard, and after hearing that, I began to listen intently.
The doctor, whose name I did not know, picked up the receiver from the wall and I watched as she placed a call. To the best of my recollection, she said to the other party on the phone, ‘This is Dr. XXX in the ER [I couldn’t hear the name] and I’m calling you because I believe we have a good candidate for the COVID-19. Nicholson, Kenneth is his name.’
What followed afterward I’m not sure of because my mind was wondering — what ever did she mean by ‘a good candidate’?” When he told me that last line the first time, weeks ago, that’s when I knew I had to let him write about that episode and do it in his own words. That was what I was referring to when I wrote the headline: “Something a patient in a hospital would never want to hear.” When he wrote that down, ‘I believe we have a good candidate for the COVID-19,’ we just had to discuss what that could have meant. Now, several weeks removed from the incident, and in a safe place, away from the hospital, the emergency room, and that female doctor, Ken
could feel comfortable enough to discuss the possibilities of that comment.
Could it have meant that they had a COVID-19 unit in the hospital and he was already infected with the virus? Could it have meant that they expected him to die and wanted to put COVID-19 on the death certificate… for their own reasons, or because they were asked to find ”candidates” for that particular cause of death? Or could it have meant that — as horrible as the thought may be — that they were considering giving COVID-19 to certain individuals, and he was a good candidate for that. After all, a candidate is for something in the future, whether an hour from now, a day from now, or way later.
None of those possibilities could rest easy on the mind of someone who is already in the hands of a doctor, in a hospital, in pain, and not knowing what the heck that statement could possibly mean. When Hippocrates, a long time ago, said ”First, do no harm,” he wasn’t just referring to the actual physical harm, such as deliberately giving a patient the wrong medicine, or operating on a patient when inebriated or not otherwise physically competent or some similar kind of thing. A doctor can do plenty of harm to a patient mentally or psychologically by putting strange or disabling thoughts in his head, which would be bad enough, but if the doctor did such things deliberately that person has no right being a doctor.
My friend Ken was very weak, very much in pain, and had nowhere to go except to the hospital. Then he was in their hands. And that was the last thing he would want to hear while he was there, in their hands: the doctor who had diagnosed the cause of his pain while he was in the emergency room saying to someone on the phone, “I’m calling you because I believe we have a good candidate for the COVID-19.
Nicholson, Kenneth is his name.” The only way one could possibly understand what he was feeling is to put themselves in his shoes. What, indeed, did that doctor mean?
Physical pain can be alleviated, but thoughts linger on. Someday he may possibly know what she meant, but in the meantime, we can all only wonder, as Ken did the day he heard those words: What could that doctor have meant?
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, emailher at firstname.lastname@example.org.