Friday, May 9, 2014
Error or Complications?
The patient was hospitalized for a few weeks following the surgery. Complications made it impossible for the elderly patient to go home. When the adult child originally called, it was to talk about the mistake, the pain their parent is having and the complications during surgery which caused the injury. A call once in a while turned into a call a day, which turned into two calls a day with panic in the voice of a loved one describing the errors made in a parents vulnerable state.
I took the 30 mile drive to visit the family. Getting there earlier than planned, I was in the room with family when the doctor arrived. The doctor had an interpreter because neither the patient, nor the adult child there at the time spoke much English. Assuming that this patient was in the hospital longer than planned because of the injuries caused by surgery and the “young, unqualified” doctor who did the surgery, (as the caller described him) caused severe injuries, I sat back and listened as the doctor explained through the interpreter, the next steps.
Now the family member who was calling me arrived. I asked the family if I may ask questions and they said “yes”. I asked the doctor what happened. His explanation was clear. The surgery was complicated. He explained the possibilities of injuries having the surgery the way it was done. The team cautioned about getting this surgery but the patient wanted it this way. The family agreed with their elderly parent. The patient was now recuperating and getting good care, in a private room with a bed for the family members to spend the night.
I asked the patient’s family if they understood that this surgery had complications, probably nothing was done “wrong” but still it wasn’t the best outcome. They agreed. I acknowledged their disappointment, frustration and confusion. The patient was discharged a few days later and is doing fine. The family is together.