"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Friday, May 28, 2010

Private Hospital Politics

(This is a lot of info that I'm about to spew. It won't be pretty or articulate. Or possible even interesting. Just another necessary entry in my cancer diary...)

I thought our time at North Cypress was going pretty well. Nice rooms. Mostly nice staff.

Any sign of fever was gone by Wednesday afternoon. So when a doctor saw us Thursday morning and said we could probably go home that day, we weren't surprised. The doc said we had to wait to hear from another doctor first, but he was almost 100% positive we'd be getting discharged soon.

Fast forward hours later...

It's been about 25 hours since I've slept (which is saying something since I've been lying in a bed for all of those hours) and Terry's just gone home to take the kids back after they visited. So I'm all alone for the first time in days. In comes the doctor we've been waiting for.

The first thing I remember thinking was, "This guy is very proud of himself." He sits. Half-way listens to me talk. I say, "When can I go?" He says, "It's possible that we'll release you...tomorrow." I was surprised right off the bat. He sounded like going home even tomorrow was questionable. I ask why we are staying and he tells me my white cell count has gone down (We knew that. We also knew that, to the best of our knowledge, that was expected after chemo.) and that tomorrow (day 7 of chemo) is "an important day" because it's when the numbers should go back up. He explains (and I believe what he says-- afterall, he's the doctor) that if the numbers go up in the morning, I'll get released right away. But if they go down then I'm in danger and being at the hospital would be necessary.

He leaves. I call my onco right away and leave a voicemail for the nurse: "My numbers went from 4.6 to 2.7 and they want to keep me another night. Just wanted to run that passed y'all. Please call me back and let me know what Dr. Heyne suggests."

I have just enough time to text and call everyone to let them know I'm staying another night when the nurse from my onco office calls. The first thing she says is, "Sarah, you're not still in the hospital are you?" And then I feel like she's chiding me. She seems to be patronizing me as she tells me that my numbers aren't that bad. That you don't worry till they get below 1. That the only reason I should have been at the hospital was my fever and now it's time to go home. At first I'm thinking, "Yeah, right. I'm not gonna argue with Dr. Rico Suave that he's wrong. I'll just tough it out and stay the night." I was exhausted and dealing with this all alone. At this point, I was only mildly frustrated by my doctors' disagreement...

Then she says, "Your numbers won't get better tomorrow. Statistically speaking, day 8 of chemo is when your numbers drop the most." Now, I was really annoyed. My drs weren't just disagreeing over a small thing- they'd flat out stated opposing opinions. And I believed my onco.

I hung up with the nurse and called Terry. While I was ranting (the first rant of my sleep-deprived night, but oh, sooo far from the last) my nurse (a very sweet lady) came in to change my saline bag. I hung up with Terry and she immediately told me that she was my advocate and here to do my dirty work. She said she'd talk with my doctor about the discrepancies. I begged her to ask the doctor at the hospital to call my onco (something she said she'd put in my file yesterday, but the hospital doc still hadn't done). Before she leaves the room she tells me I'm going to be given a medication to drink. "It's just a one-time thing," she says, "because your potassium levels are really low." (Or maybe she said high. I can't remember now.)

For some reason this sounded suspicious to me. I'd been put on several antibiotics since I'd been there and Dr. Rico Suave had moments earlier announced another antibiotic and a yeast pill. I couldn't keep up with all the meds, so I said to her, "But, now I'm questioning his judgment. Maybe my levels are low as a side effect of the chemo and they'll come back on their own like everything else will." She says that my numbers are at the top of the worst category so she suspects its pretty important for me to get the meds. But she offers to go ask Dr. Suave.

And my biggest flip out comes when she walks back in almost immediately and says, "Ok, he said to cancel the meds." AAAGGGHHH!!!! That was it for me! I thought, "This guys a quack! I've been trusting my health to these people and they don't seem to have a clue!"

If I'd had the energy I would have pulled my iv out right then, just like they do on tv. If I had any guts I would have checked out "AMA" and been sitting outside waiting for Terry when he got back. But I didn't have energy or guts. So I did the only thing I could think of- texted a dozen people for advice and then started to cry.

When Terry got back he decided that we would listen to my onco and check out. The rule-follower in me immediately got scared to argue with Dr. Suave. Luckily though, my nurse handled that for me (she said the doc was pretty mad). She also magically worked the discharge process and we were released in only about 15 minutes- by far the fastest that's ever happened! As we signed out, I got the good news (finally) that my genetic testing was back and that I don't have a gene mutation (meaning no mandatory ovary and right breast removal and no worries for my sisters). My nurse overheard and shared that she has a very strong line of bc in her family. She got a little teary when she said her mom had it, and I assumed this was why she'd been so helpful and proactive.

In the end it was such an awful day! I was so overwhelmed. I had been putting all of my energy into fighting cancer. I didn't know I was supposed to be playing doctor too. Or, playing doctor politics, I guess. So many people who've already heard this story have shrugged it off to "private hospitals" so I guess I was a little naive. But rightly so, I suppose. Maybe it's just me but I assume that hospitals and doctors know what they're doing and have my best interest at heart. More of "the perfect world" I lived in is just shattering at my feet!

The hospital doctor actually said to me that if I weren't being treated for bc he'd let me go. And my onco said that because I am being treated for bc is the exact reason I should go home. Except the earlier fever, everything else that had happened was to be expected. It seemed like my onco was concerned with my health while my hospital doc was only concerned with taking advantage of a young couple and keeping us around (and pumping me with pricey drugs). Like Mark Brewer says, 50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class!

So after over 30 hours of being awake, I finally slept. For twelve hours! And now that I can think straight I feel the need to apologize to anyone who was the victim of my crazy texts during that very stressful period yesterday! Sorry! :) And as always... thanks for listening!


  1. I love getting your texts. :)
    And this story really brings out the righteous indignation in me! Can I growl again? Grrr...

  2. I have that 'rule-following' mentality as well, not always to our advantage, eh? Thank God for gutsy hubbys! I am also glad to hear you finally got some sleep! Here's to another lesson well learned!

  3. I am sitting here FINALLY reading your posts, and praising the Lord for the GREAT news! I amso thankful that the DNA testing came back negative!
    You text me whenever you need to, and you never need to feel the need to apologize for ranting, (I do it to). Love you!!!


Your comments and emails keep me going. So keep 'em coming!