Human

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Did You Actually Go To Medical School?

Published August 16, 2014 by ia84

When I was in elementary school, I remember classmates circulating a story about a man who had gone in for surgery, and when he woke up he was missing a leg.  Depending on the person telling the story, he either lost both legs, or an arm and a leg, or both legs and both arms.  I’m pretty sure that at some point, in some telling of the tale, he woke up as the Headless Horseman (and was probably missing all his limbs as well).  I learned two things from this, A. Kid’s imaginations are kind of a gruesome playground, and, B. Don’t have surgery, because the doctor will mix you up with another patient and you WILL die (sans all limbs).

When I was in vet tech school, I remember sitting in surgical procedures class, and having a teacher tell us that it was super important to count all your gauze pads-and anything else that came into contact with the patient-before the patient got stitched up, because you didn’t want Fluffy coming back in for having a sponge left inside her accidentally (and having a severe infection from the foreign body).

You always hear stories like this, and I think on some level I didn’t quite believe them until a few years ago when my grampa was staying at a rehab center after surgery.  Two days before he was due to be released, the nurse gave him another patient’s meds.  Turned out that the other patient was taking high levels of morphine.  I’ve always hoped no one got my grampa’s meds, because he was taking large quantities of Coumadin (a blood thinner, for those who aren’t familiar with it).  Grampa ended up back in the hospital for a few days, and his release date got pushed back another week.

All of these things were enough to make me a little nervous about healthcare, but it wasn’t until I started working at the lab that I truly got scared of healthcare.

Now, let me just point out that there are absolutely amazing and fantastic nurses and doctors out there.  My goal here is not to bash, or cast out a net and say, “All healthcare professionals are this way.”  There are people who truly know what they’re doing and do an excellent job at it.  However, in the last year and a half, I’ve started to wonder how many of them there actually are.

I really love my job.  The work is interesting, and I’ve learned far more in the last year and a half than I ever learned in school.  I work in a medical reference lab.  We’re responsible for running tests that doctor’s offices and hospitals can’t run in-house.  I don’t personally perform any of the testing (I’d need a medical lab tech degree for that, and all I have is my vet tech degree and training as a phlebotomist), but I work in the processing department.  Instead of a long drawn out explanation, just think of it as a combination of quality assurance and client care.  I seem to spend a fair amount of time on the phone with clients, and for every call that is smooth and easy to work through, there seem to be about twenty that make you wish you were having a root canal instead.

For example, recently, I had to call a stat result to a doctor.  Not only did this doctor have zero people skills, but when I told him what I was calling about, what the test was, and what the result of the test was along with the normal reference ranges, he said, “I don’t understand what that means.”  It was all I could do not to reply, “You ordered this test!  This is your patient!  What do you mean you don’t understand?!”  Fortunately, it wasn’t a very unusual test, and after about five minutes I was able to explain it well enough to him that he seemed to have grasped whatever it was he didn’t understand.  I hung up the phone and just sat there feeling pity for his patients.

The thing is, those kinds of calls are not out of the norm.  A few weeks ago, one of my co-workers had to call a nurse because a specimen was received that had to be protected from light and frozen within 30 minutes of collection.  The specimen arrived frozen, but unprotected from light.  The nurse didn’t understand the problem, because she had gotten the specimen in the freezer in the 30 minutes.  My co-worker then had to explain that the specimen also needed to either be wrapped in tin foil (not only does it protect the specimen from light, but it protects it from aliens as well), or put into an amber colored tube.

It scares me when things aren’t labeled, or they’re mislabeled.  It scares me when a medical professional doesn’t know that you use a lavender tube to collect a CBC, instead of a serum tube.  It scares me when they don’t know the difference between serum and plasma.  It scares me when they don’t know how to operate a centrifuge.  It scares me when I have to explain something basic to someone who supposedly has more education than I do.  It scares me when people are more interested in discussing their horoscopes, than they are in doing their job correctly.  I don’t care if you’re a Cancer, I care about making sure that the guy with cancer gets prompt and accurate treatment.

I know that mistakes happen.  I know that doctors and nurses are only human.  Sometimes, though, I have to wonder why some of them decided to work in healthcare.  Must be the great hours and the glamorous uniforms.

It’s Not Worth More Than Life

Published April 3, 2014 by ia84

I have a lot of things I’m scared of.  Snakes, spiders, snakes, heights, snakes, anything in a scary movie, snakes…well, you get the idea.  However, the two all time scariest moments of my life actually took place while I was driving (and neither involved snakes).  One, of course, is when I went off the road in a blizzard.  Granted, I didn’t get scared until after being rescued, and I realized that I should have died.  The all time scariest moment came in December of 2009.

It was noon on Saturday, December 5th, 2009, I was with my parents, and I was driving on West Center (a main road here in Omaha).  Being the noon hour, traffic was heavy.  We were sitting in a long line of traffic waiting for the light at 120th & W. Center to change.  I remember looking up in my rear view mirror and seeing a car coming up behind me.  I could tell that it wasn’t slowing down, and even though my foot was already on the brake (because we were stopped), I put as much pressure into holding the brake down as I could.  Right before the car slammed into the back of my car, I saw that the driver was just chatting away on her cell phone, completely oblivious to the fact that she was about to cause an accident.  The impact came, our car was pushed up into the car in front of us, and then unexpectedly the car behind us hit us a second time.  It took a moment, but when no more impacts came, it was time to see what had happened.

Turns out, the woman who hit us wasn’t the only one on her phone not paying attention.  There was another woman in the car behind the woman who rear ended us, and she too was on her cell phone.  You read that right, both women were talking on their cell phones not paying a whit of attention to anything.  Not only that, but it ended up being a paramedic who witnessed what happened who called 9-1-1.  I didn’t have a phone at the time, and the gentleman who’s truck I got pushed into didn’t have one either.  Neither of the two women who caused the accident bothered to ever use their phones to call 9-1-1.

Miraculously, no one was killed, or injured; which considering the fact that both women were going at least 45 mph when they hit is pretty amazing.  (Although, the stress of the event triggered a nightmare medical situation with my mom over the next week, but that’s a story for another post.)

Ever since that nightmare day, I’ve been very anti using your cell phone to text or call while driving.  That accident should never have happened.  So, you can imagine the rage I felt yesterday when I got on Facebook, and saw one of my acquaintances had written that when a guy honked and shook his finger at her for texting and driving, she proceeded to flip him off and continue texting at the same time.  And to make it really great, she hash-tagged it “multitasking.”

Cue Seth and Amy, it’s time for “Really?”.  Really?  REALLY??????

Last time I checked driving is not the time to be “multitasking.”  A car is an incredibly dangerous weapon when used irresponsibly.  And yes, I consider texting and driving to be just as irresponsible as talking on the cell phone and driving.  If you don’t care about your own life, show respect and care for other people’s lives.  People in the cars around you are human beings.  Every single driver is someone’s daughter or son.  Every single passenger is someone’s daughter or son.  This isn’t “The Sims” where you can just recreate the character should Death come knocking.  There is no pause button, and the game doesn’t reset just because someone died.   Those other drivers don’t deserve to have their lives taken away or messed up badly because you don’t have the patience to wait until you’ve reached your destination to use your phone.

At the end of the day, life is too valuable to destroy so recklessly and irresponsibly.