Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sick From Across the Miles

When an Emergency Strikes from Far Away
The most important thing to take with you to the hospital is a friend who at least can act as your advocate. A friend who sits in a corner and doesn’t write notes, plan with you what questions need to be asked or doesn’t make sure hospital policies are followed, is not much help. That’s why training someone to be your advocate is so important.

I have been an advocate for many people. I have sat at the bedside day and night through many different surgeries and procedures. Usually, there is nothing unusual that happens. But recently, when a friend went to California for surgery, I couldn’t go and another friend went. She was trained as an advocate and I had no doubt she would do everything that needed to be done.

But, following surgery and a week after recuperating, with just days before returning home, the advocate felt chest pains and ended up in the local hospital emergency room having a heart attack. The patient now became the advocate in a strange city thousands of miles away from home.

Forced to make a decision, the patient came home, leaving her friend in a hospital where she felt staff was kind and gentle and sympathetic. Not to mention both women were transsexuals and the first hospital she ended up in was a Catholic hospital. Still, there and in the second hospital, both women felt they were treated well.

The advocate, now the patient came home a few days later to friends and family who were glad she was home. A collection was taken and quickly we raised the money to pay for her airline ticket.

What are some of the lessons here?

Always carry a list of all your medications, surgeries and allergies. Were she not conscious, no one planned on the advocate needing this information.

Carry doctor’s names and phone numbers. A fast call home may have saved this patient time if she couldn’t speak for herself.

Carry your insurance information and be sure your travel companion knows where the information can be found.

Before you choose an advocate, or a travel partner, know something about their health. In this case, it wasn’t the first time this woman had a heart attack.

And, when traveling, if there is an emergency, get a “point” person to help with travel plans and contact friends and family. An advocate may be best at the bedside but there are plenty of things that can be done from afar. The advocate (turned patient) put me down as someone who can receive information which allowed me to help, by phone in her decision making and plans. The less she needed to think about being alone, or travel was more energy she could use on gaining her strength. Careful to never take away her chance to make decisions, I am confident that the teamwork helped her get her strength back and make a full recovery.

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