Part III — Lessons Learned From My Hospital Discharge Care

I’m still so enthralled being back at home, away from the noise and disruptions from my necessary hospital stay.  As I was being wheeled out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by Lisa on April 9th, 2013, I thought I was home-free.  No hospitalization, no more problem.  I’ve since learned otherwise, as my healthcare advocate/durable power of attorney for healthcare/friend young enough to be my granddaughter, has made me tow the line and follow my discharge instructions consistently and completely.

In addition to speaking with my discharge nurse before leaving the hospital on April 9th, Lisa had my vitals taken and blood test results copied and given to her.  My mind was thinking “escape to the comforts of home,” but Lisa knew I wasn’t completely well, just stable enough to be discharged.  Since leaving the hospital, I’ve seen my local internist twice and had additional blood tests and urine cultures performed.  My oral antibiotic was changed and so was my diet.  I’m now eating plain yogurt with live bacteria cultures (“good bacteria,” Lisa tells me) with strawberries and bananas.

When I complained to Lisa I felt stomach cramps, unusual for me, she explained it was likely caused by my antibiotic killing off the good bacteria in my intestines which I need for healthy digestion.  I had never heard of “good” bacteria and I never cared for yogurt.  Lisa explained it would be a good idea to add yogurt to my diet, with fresh fruit, to offset the havoc my antibiotic was causing with my digestion process.  When I saw my internist, I asked her if Lisa’s yogurt idea had any merit.  Much to my surprise, my doctor agreed.  My stomach cramps stopped.  Now Lisa and I both each eat a cup of plain yogurt with delicious fresh fruit grown in Southern California each night.

Lesson #1 — If your doctor approves the addition of yogurt and fruit to your diet (whether you’re taking antibiotics or not,) consider making this change.  It’s healthy, good for your digestive system, and keeps good bacteria in your intestines. “Good” bacteria!  I still can’t believe it.  I always believed bacteria in one’s body was a bad thing.  I’m almost 101 and still learning!

Lesson #2 — When being discharged from a hospital, as badly as you want to leave (this I understand,) have your departing vitals taken and all recent test result copies given to you.  When you follow up with your regular doctor, he/she will be much better informed when monitoring and evaluating your post-discharge care.

I slept two-thirds of every day and night the first week I returned home.  I was surprised at how much strength I had lost during the course of my 72 hour hospitalization.  Lisa explained, and my doctor confirmed, a hospitalization usually takes a lot of energy out of a patient.  Once returning home, expect a time of taking it easy and resting more than usual.  This is your body using energy to restore itself to its pre-hospitalization mode of operation.

Lesson #3 — Don’t expect to resume your physical fitness routine immediately after discharge.  Be sensible and wait until you feel strong and your doctor clears you to resume your regular activities.  I may have to rest this weekend, but I’ll do it by watching the NFL Draft.  Bob and Lisa will join me, and we’ll have a yogurt party in my room.  We really know how to live at our house!

In sum, I feel I’m 80 percent back to my old self, prior to developing that pesky bladder infection.  Given it’s still April and all this has happened in the same month, I know I’m much luckier than I was in November 2011 when I suffered my moderate stroke.  Not only was my ailment much more serious, but the errors made in my treatment while under the care of Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California, caused additional problems which jeopardized my recovery.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, Lisa formally complained about my medical and hospital care (to the Medical Board of California and the California Department of Public Health, respectively, in the winter of 2012.)

While we’ve found the state’s Department of Public Health responsive and professional, the state’s Medical Board (which monitors doctors) has many vacant seats.  The Board’s response time to Lisa’s complaints exceeded the time one is allowed (one year) to pursue legal action against a physician one believes to be dangerous. The Board’s seats filled are primarily by politicians and medical staff, which seems to us to be an odd combination of people to monitor the practices of medical doctors.  Politicians, in general, know little about medical care.  Doctors, working with politicians, seem to be a curious combination of people to investigate physicians who are suspected of practicing in a substandard manner.  Something seems very wrong here.

I will continue to share my enlightening and sobering experiences in future blogs, with the intention of educating you from the mistakes I’ve encountered.  Hopefully I can help spare you and your loved ones the serious consequences I suffered.

My recent discharge from Cedars-Sinai, with advocacy assistance, is an example of how our medical system can work effectively and efficiently.  My previous discharges from Los Robles Medical Center and their East Campus Rehabilitation Facility are examples of the dangerous domino effects substandard care can often cause, especially with seniors.

My closing lesson (several, really:)  Take care of your health, appoint a reliable healthcare advocate to help you before you develop a problem, incorporate yogurt into your daily diet, rest and recover sensibly after a stay in the hospital, definitely follow up with your regular physician once you’re discharged, keep current medical records, and enjoy the NFL Draft this weekend.

This scenario is much preferred than the one I experienced in November 2011.  On September 5, 2012, the California Department of Public Health wrote to Lisa (in response to her assigned complaint number CA00295604 regarding my care at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center, East Campus:)  “The California Department of Public Health/Licensing and Certification, L&C, has validated the complaint allegations during our onsite visit.”  Details regarding our complaint allegations will follow in future blogs.

I refuse to die until this story is told completely.  No one should transition to whatever is next before it is truly their time.

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