NOT FRANTIC – THE ONGOING MEDICAL MESS

NOT FRANTIC

The past few weeks have been intense. I lose track of time. Retirement tends to make our days and weeks run into each other seamlessly. It can be difficult to remember when something happened — whether it was yesterday or a week ago.

I generally don’t mind the streaming life we lead. It’s peaceful and I’ve grown fond of our quiet life in the country.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The medical stuff, though, has lent a level of pressure and complexity that has made me more alert. The first was the realization that the hospital we supposedly depend on is a genuine, card-carrying mess. It’s not just me saying so, either. The Internet is full of upset people who have registered complaints and never had them addressed. Nurses assure us that the hospital is “atrocious,” which isn’t the word you want used to describe your primary medical facility. This wouldn’t be such a big deal for me because I have my cardiologist and oncologist at other facilities. I am graced by Blue Cross’s PPO for Medicare patients which lets us use any doctor and hospital.

While I’ve been getting aggravated about my own little issue, I’ve been getting more worried about Garry’s cochlear implant. We have only seen the doctor at UMass. There is more I don’t know about this procedure than I ought.

There are many ways to do it. I haven’t done my homework. Meanwhile, putting Garry in the hands of the people at UMass? If I can’t trust them to take a simple message, why would I want to put my beloved into their hands?


Hospitals aren’t about doctors. The people who run hospitals are receptionists, office managers, nurse’s aides, and nurses. You don’t see doctors much. They come, perform surgery, drop by to tell you you’re fine (or not fine or will be fine), but they are rarely visible on a hospital floor. All  your daily business will be managed by the underpaid, overworked, and often foreign-language-speaking minimum-wage workers who slouch your way when you press that “I need help” button.


I’ve been overdosed with medication to which I’m allergic despite my urgent warnings. Found myself with no functioning lungs and a stopped heart — information that was conveniently never written into my records. Hallucinating from morphine, to which I am allergic.  Fed food guaranteed to kill me if I was foolish enough to eat it.

Why?

Because nurse’s aides in most big hospitals don’t speak or read English. The doctor’s messages are meaningless to them. They have no idea what they are doing because no one trained them. And some of them just don’t care. All they want it a paycheck and to get off their tired feet.

They are greatly overworked and deeply underpaid. What do their bosses expect will happen? Are you really going to get top quality service from these downtrodden people?

Only at Beth Israel were real nurses attending me. Everywhere else, my interactions were with aides and orderlies and occasional a receptionist at a desk somewhere. Conversations were with rude, short-tempered women (sometimes men) who followed “rules” that could kill you because the human mouthing “the rules” didn’t care if you lived or died. The rules were the important part. They were trained to follow the rules. If something went wrong, well, no one can blame them. They followed the rules. They did what they were supposed to do. If there was collateral damage — like a few deaths here and there — oh well. Oops.


No hospital will ever be better than its lowest paid, most exhausted worker. If you can’t improve the quality of your staff with intelligent training, your hospital will always be a horror show for patients.


I should be frantic and would be, but my Blue Cross Plan gives me choices. My alternatives will be less convenient, but at least we will feel safe.

Safe seems the place to be.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

28 thoughts on “NOT FRANTIC – THE ONGOING MEDICAL MESS”

    1. I don’t know if I did. I think not. I would appreciate the link. The thing is, there are a lot of ways to do this implant. They may do both ears, one ear, with or without external hardware. Garry does NOT want the external hardware. This morning I looked up to see who else does the work and not surprisingly, it was two hospitals : Mass Eye & Ear, and Tufts. Tufts has a whole unit set up, so I’d probably go there first because Mass Eye & Ear is dead in the middle of the worst part of Boston to travel an ANY other place is easier to read.

      If we didn’t have a plan that let us go to ANY hospital or doctor, I’d be freaking out.

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  1. You know what is truly sad? This is happening all over our great land of ours. Doctors? Seriously? They swing by in between their busy live’s on the golf cart to visit and say, here’s a script, have a nice day. They nearly killed my mother when she was in the hospital because they paid no mind to the list of all her drug allergies. How dare they make the big bucks, when they can’t take the time to know their patients.
    I am so sorry for all that you and Garry are going through. I’m so sick to death with anything that revolves around insurance scams and white coats with a degree.

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    1. In recent years, I’ve been lucky to have better doctors. But I’ve done a lot of research before choosing a surgeon. I learned the hard way with a lot of near death experiences that the wrong doctor is a death sentence. Some are as bad or worse than your description, but they aren’t ALL that bad. You have to look up their resumes and reviews and the hospitals reviews too and THEN decide. Often, it isn’t that the doctor misses the information. It’s the nurse’s aides who administer drugs and can’t read the doctors writing — or even his language!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yup. Way to go. I got really super great work on my heart. I had been nearly killed by relatively minor surgery, so this time, I was going to do it right. And I did. It’s just a lot more work and rarely as convenient as just going to your local hospital.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s Jan Wilberg, whose blog is entitled Red’s Wrap. An excellent blog and she’s the one who had the cochlear implant. You said you don’t know much about them. Why not ask her advice?

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    1. Signed up, sent links to Garry. There’s a lot of exciting new technology in Boston, too including a fully implanted technology (designed at MIT and available through Mass Eye & Ear). So I sent a message for an appointment at Mass Eye & Ear because that’s where Garry went for many years before we moved out of Boston. He knows them. Trusts them. Used to literally live next door to them.

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        1. It has. I should have done it sooner. But I was so hoping I wasn’t going to have haul our butts into Boston again. Also, it will mean I’ll have to find someplace to stay while Garry is in hospital because even getting there’s going to be a serious high-stress issue. Meanwhile, all of a sudden, wouldn’t you know it that UMass is calling me every few hours to find out how I am. I think I scared the pants off them. Not that they don’t deserve it.

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  3. Sounds horrid, and I hope Garry’s experience is exceptionally good despite your fears. Fortunately for me and my family, the hospitals here are very good, and I’ve never had a bad experience with any of the staff. Whenever I’ve been an inpatient, I’ve been cared for by RNs and LPNs – and except for one, they were all sympathetic, efficient, and caring. I also never got the feeling that my doctors weren’t completely involved in my treatment. Maybe I’ve just lucked out, but I’ve never been afraid to go into the hospital, at least not because of concerns about what care I might receive.

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    1. I don’t know what I would do without it! I actually waited on my heart surgery until the PPO kicked in because the only hospital the old plan gave was UMass which — way back then — 6 years ago — I hated already. They were bad then and hard to believe, I swear — they are WORSE now.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One thing that big gigantic hospitals lack, besides skilled and fully trained staff is common sense. There are a lot of those rules that you mentioned that are horrifyingly stupid. My step-son was fired from the largest conglomerate hospital concern in the State of Utah for ‘not smiling enough. ” He said he asked the person doing the critiquing if his cooking or his facial expression were more important (he was a cook in the kitchen. Didn’t interact with patients). He was then censured for not taking his job ‘seriously’. Mixed messages much?? I’m sorry. I’m glad in your case there are options. For some of us we have to take what we can get, and that’s getting more and more depressing as the years roll along. And I’ve got a big mouth and would probably be labelled as a racist or bigot, but I INSIST, on important matters, like my healthcare and anything to do with finances, that the person speak English as a first language. Otherwise they can get the hell away from me. And I realize that’s probably dismissing the minute fraction of foreign born health care workers that are doing a better job than the tenured.

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    1. I don’t blame you. I’m not a racist and I’m sure as hell not a bigot, but i want whoever is taking care of keeping me alive to know what I’m talking about. And if I spoke Spanish, I would have the SAME concern. What good is someone who only speaks Ukrainian when your only language is Spanish? They SHOULD have people who speak YOUR language.They SHOULD have translators. If the patient doesn’t speak other languages, you absolutely NEED to be understood. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for getting killed.

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  5. We place our lives in “doctor’s”hands. When you think about it, they are basically people who hopefully know more about a particular subject than you do. And hopefully, they aced their tests and scores and remember what they were taught and can do the job exceedingly efficiently! What can I say. It’s scary.

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    1. Yes, there ARE much better options and as soon as I told Garry I’d contacted Mass Eye & Ear, I could see relief. He knows them, and they are very good at what they do. What’s more, they are the only hospital working with MIT on the “all inside the ear” technology. Whether or not our insurance would PAY for that is another issue entirely. A lot of “new” technology is rejected because it costs more, so they might refuse it regardless of its advantages. But it can’t hurt to try. And he is already on the list of official cochlear implant recipients, so it doesn’t matter what hospital he uses. They will pay for any of them.

      Liked by 1 person

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