the best laid plans

October 30, 2006

plans — i love them, i crave them, i go crazy making them in detail, but they really don’t mean much when something more important comes up. something like, say, your beloved father getting attacked by a VERY mean-spirited unknown viral agent. in his meninges.

yeah. so that happened. since i didn’t have much in the way of obligation keeping me here, i drove 6 hours north and spent last week in philadelphia with my parents. my mother was stressed (understatement of the century) and my father was in the hospital for a week and in pain for much of it. i learned a lot about what it feels like to be on the OTHER SIDE in the hospital. some things i, uhh, noticed:

– the doctors don’t really worry too much about keeping the patient informed. maybe you’ll get a tidbit here or there, but maybe not. and if i didn’t have the right questions to fish with, i would have been even more in the dark. when i’m in charge, i will take more time to fully explain studies, the team’s thinking (diagnosis AND prognosis), and general day-by-day expectations to my patients because now i know how awful it is to just sit there wondering. and really, it’s much better — healthier, really — for the patient if they are reassured that the continued fevers do not mean imminent death. you have to warn them of things like this.

– vital signs are not always to be trusted. we had 3 thermometers read 96, 98, and 101 within one minute. so much for fancy hospital devices. sheesh.

– it’s very, very important to do a detailed and thorough explanation of the discharge medications and plans. the patient needs to know what to take, when to stop it, when to take more of it, when to freak out and call the hospital for readmission, and when NOT to. we weren’t really given any of these things, but only a rather lazy prescription for dilaudid (rather than the percoset which had been working) upon discharge. would it have been that much harder to ask which medications worked in the hospital? seriously.

– i really like it better being on the doctor side. this whole experience was so stressful and scary and not-fun (although it was much, MUCH worse for my dad).

anyway, i’m back. i guess i have some replanning to do. but i’m not really stressed about it. this episode, while not enjoyable, was a good reminder of what really matters.

perspective IS everything.


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