My Recent Hospitalization: Lessons Learned — Part I

Hello faithful readers!  Sorry I’ve been an absent blogger, but that’s due to a recent hospitalization.  I’m at home now and on the mend.  I learned so much about being hospitalized today.  Things are definitely different than they were just ten years ago.  Lisa wasn’t surprised, but I was amazed.  I hope by writing my next series of posts, I can provide you with some helpful information.

One week ago I felt lethargic and had no appetite.  Despite a good night’s sleep, I found myself sleeping during the day.  I wasn’t interested in food or water.  Lisa noticed I wasn’t acting like myself.  When the dinner hour came and went without my eating or drinking anything, I remained apathetic.  Lisa’s response was quite different.  She suspected something was seriously wrong.  My vital signs were normal.  I did not have a fever.  No pain.  Just a little nausea and a lot of indifference.

Lisa’s biggest concern:  dehydration.  She has seen the effects many times over the years.  The worst case Lisa ever witnessed involved an elderly man became who became so dehydrated he was unresponsive to voice and touch.  Even his own doctor believed he was dying.  Turns out he had trouble swallowing and over time ate and drank less and less.  He became so undernourished and dehydrated, he arrived at the point where he could not respond to any questions asked of him or wake up when being shaken.  Only because his eldest son insisted on a second opinion was the man rushed to the hospital and evaluated.  Twelve hours after IV fluids and nutrition, this gentleman regained all of his senses.  He visited at length with concerned visitors and watched the national news.  Tragedy averted.

Lesson #1 –Beware of the dangers of dehydration.  This condition can result in loss of life.

Lesson #2 — Always get a second medical opinion.  This could save your life.

Not wanting to see me reach a point where I became unresponsive, Lisa decided to take me to the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  It is an hour drive away from our home.  The hospital closest to us, Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California, is owned by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA.)   I was treated there (and at their East Campus rehabilitation facility) for a moderate stroke I suffered in November 2011.  Under the care of Los Robles, I experienced seriously substandard care (later confirmed in 2012 in writing by the Ventura County office of the California Department of Public Health, who responded to a complaint Lisa filed.)  I would not go there again under any circumstances.  Given HCA’s history of investigations by the United States Department of Justice for errors in Medicare billing and performing unnecessary medical procedures on some of their patients, resulting in huge settlements paid to the government by HCA, neither Lisa or I want anything more to do with any hospital owned this corporation.

Lesson #3 — Find out who owns the hospital where you would go for care if needed.  Research the type of hospital it is (for profit or not, teaching or not, history of investigations, etc.)  Decide if it is the best place for you and your loved ones during a time of medical need now, before care is needed.  If not, locate an alternate hospital.  The better care received, generally the better a patient will fare.

Cedars-Sinai is where Lisa underwent brain surgery in 2007.  Her experience there proved successful in every way.   Cedars-Sinai is a teaching and non-profit medical center.  And that’s where Lisa took me one week ago today.  She brought all of my prescriptions, as well as copies of my Advance Health Care Directive, HIPAA release and POLST.  Copies of my Medicare and supplemental medical insurance cards, as well as the originals, completed our packet for the hospital.

Lesson #4 — Remember to take all of these items with you whenever you decide to visit any hospital emergency room.  The less time spent on administrative matters, the more time your healthcare advocate can spend with you and your medical team.

The one hour drive to Cedars-Sinai was uneventful.  I slept most of the way.  Upon arrival, I felt unsteady.  With sweaty palms and a shaky body, I allowed myself to be wheeled into the ER.  I did glance around to see if perhaps Keith Richards was there (I’m still after him about his health) but there was no sign of him.

Stay tuned.  Much more to follow.

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