There a thousands of people working in the major metropolitan hospital my sister almost died in — many doing their jobs then going home at night. And there are a handful of heroes in most hospitals, even this one. But there are also goats, herds of them, wandering the halls, bleating their value to the world. These goats graze at the top of the healthcare food chain; these goats will kill you.
One of our goats was a Resident — what I call a “baby doc.” In one 24 hour period, without touching her and undoubtedly without reading her Electronic Medical Records (EMR), this Resident – I shall call him Dr. X, managed to take a person who was in for surgery and reduce her to a patient teetering on the brink of death.
Here is the short story of how Dr. X almost killed my sister.
Friday morning, my sister complained of excruciating pain in the gall bladder area but no one listened. Just 8 hours later her kidneys started to fail – urine the color of iced tea and very little of it in the catheter bag. I told the nurse, and asked for a consult with someone right away.
The nurse paged Dr. X 3 times with no answer. By then it was 6PM and there was no urine output. At shift change, the night nurse was really shocked by her condition, paged Dr. X and finally got him to commit to come down. The baby doc appeared at 8PM but he wasn’t there to help, he was there to dismiss.
I asked him if we could consult a urologist; he said no. I asked for a consult with a nephrologist; he said no. The nurse specifically asked about getting “a visualization of the kidneys.” He said no. Four hours later, at 12:40 Saturday morning, the nurse told Dr. X his patient was in full kidney failure and asked if he could take cultures to measure my sister’s kidney function, Dr. X said no.
When paged again, Dr. X showed up again at 3:30AM to “talk with us” and was about as helpful as a plank – not listening, dismissing the problems and both of us. In full kidney failure and literally drowning, with creatinine levels that had almost tripled and hyper bilirubin anemia, my sister was clearly heading for a casket but Dr. X didn’t seem interested.
I followed him to the Nurses’ Station and demanded a consult with urology. What I got was a consult with another Resident – this one from Internal Medicine. Dr. X thought this might shut me up. It made Dr. X shut up. This Internal Medicine Resident read her EMR, talked with Ryan and me then examined Meg, who was beyond words. Then he did what most doctors would never do – he literally removed my sister from Dr. X’s care. He saved her life.
In Intermediate Care Unit, he put together a team that included all the consults I had asked for and then some — nephrology, urology, pulmonology, cardiology and gastroenterology — and they got to work fast. Surgery occurred that afternoon and the Chief Surgeon told me they just got to her in time – she had less than 12 hours to live.
This is the proverbial cautionary tale with one moral. No matter how big the hospital is, no matter how great its reputation, people just like my sister die there NOT because it is “their time” but because goats like Dr. X get a hall pass.