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Medical Mysteries

Lesson of the week: There is nothing in the world that can teach you patience like a trip to a hospital. I know that when you read the title of this post you think I’ve been diagnosed with some strange new disease. Not the case at all.

On Thursday morning I found myself experiencing some odd health-related things. It began with the weirdest sensation of blurry vision on the left side—almost like someone was holding up a ribbon of plastic wrap off to the side of my face. I figured that once again I’d had a mishap with my eye makeup…it happens way more often than I care to admit. Although I suppose I just admitted it didn’t I? Where’s that strikeout button…

Anyhoo, after about 20 minutes of trying to figure out what was in my eye, it cleared up, but was replaced by a wicked headache on the right side (opposite side of the blurry, which makes sense in hind-sight since the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body). I was considering prying my eyeball out with a knitting needle because of how it hurt, when I realized the pain was radiating down into my jaw. Suddenly the neurotic doctor in my head started yelling “You gonna die man! That’s a heart attack!”

Now while I usually try to ignore that particular voice, in this case it was enough to call the real doctor who said it was concerning, but to take some headache medicine, give it an hour and call him back. 20 minutes later however, when my left arm and left side of my face went numb, my inner MD took over my fingers, visited that website that every hypochondriac has in their “Favorites” list (WebMD) and decided we were having a stroke. Another call to the doctor with an actual degree who concurred I needed to go to the ER. (Curses, he gave legitimacy to the valetudinarian voice in my head that forever tells me a neck ache is meningitis…this is going to have long-term repercussions…)

The number of tests and poking and prodding that ensued was just a barrel of laughs, let me tell you. But the part of it that I still just shake my head at—and that inspired this post—was the waiting. It was a pattern of flurry of activity, wait for extended periods of time, flurry of activity, wait, wait, wait, flurry, flurry, wait, threaten the staff, wait, wait, wait. There are procedures for every step of patient care, unfortunately they seem to slow the process considerably. The amount of time spent waiting for a consult, waiting for the transportation team to move patients from one test to another or one room to another, waiting for supplies or meds to be delivered, waiting for admitting to process paperwork, and on and on and on.

The interesting part is that it’s not just frustrating to the patients (which it is) but also to the staff. The nurses were wonderful, but just as irked as I was at the amount of time spent waiting for things to be done that they weren’t allowed to do. What kind of sense does that make? I literally spent over two hours waiting for someone to take me from the ER to my room, AFTER the room had been assigned. When I was discharged, it was another hour and a half before the guy came with the wheelchair to escort me out of the hospital. After one of my tests, I sat in a line of gurneys along a hallway for about half an hour as we all waited to be taken back to our rooms. I understand the need to compartmentalize roles and responsibilities, but if that kind of a system makes things LESS efficient, then perhaps it needs to be reevaluated.

That being said, I can’t complain for the most part about my stay. The staff were almost all incredibly nice, nurturing people (there are always exceptions, and there were two that stand out in my memory). The doctors ordered A LOT of tests, but the good news is that they all came back “normal”. I say that with air quotes because as my dear friend Marlen pointed out, a CAT-Scan and MRI can’t detect crazy. Don’t you feel the love there?

My diagnosis was a “Complex Migraine” which means bad headache with weird symptoms. Of course, they also told me it is a diagnosis that means they’ve got nothing else to pin my issues on, so there it is.

So, we’ve actually got more than one lesson learned here…

  1. Medical administrators (and non-medical ones too): talk to your customers and staff about what they are most DISsatisfied with…you might find your operational machine can be improved by leaps and bounds with simple changes.

  2. When you find yourself irked by something like waiting, don’t lash out at the people who are trying to help you. There’s a good chance they’re just as frustrated as you, but their hands are tied by a process.

  3. Ignoring your internal medically-paranoid voice is good to a certain extent…if you are having REAL symptoms, call a REAL doctor to get their opinion.

While my symptoms turned out NOT to be a stroke, thankfully, I would like to encourage everyone to know the signs of one. Your health is not something to take lightly. We’ve only got one life…let’s make it a long one!

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