Like Shouting "Bomb" in an Airport

BY COREY HENNESSEY

Last year my mother had an acute Crohn's attack. She was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 1985. Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that causes severe inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. It can be both painful and debilitating, and can lead to life-threatening complications.

Her gastroenterologist, a doctor specializing in diseases of the intestines, had her admitted. When her real doctor was finally able to get to her he performed a few tests before he left to go on a scheduled vacation.

Now at this hospital, when someone’s doctor is on vacation, they assign a generalist to the case. This is not a typical procedure that hospitals follow. The doctor that my mother received was less than helpful. He put her on 80mgs of prednisone, which is a very strong steroid used as an immunosuppressant drug. Normally my mother is only put on 60mg while she's in the hospital. At the same time, he gave her next to no pain medication.

“I don't believe your doctor’s diagnosis," he claimed when she questioned what he was doing to her. “He’s wrong, and you’ve been making poor choices by following his advice. You’re killing yourself by listening to him.”

He went on and on, even though she had been diagnosed with it thirty years ago and he was not specialized in gastroenterology. She wasn’t here for a diagnosis. It was his job to follow the instructions her doctor had left while he was gone, not to take the case under his wing.

She had just had a procedure that would be painful to anyone, and the painkillers were being used to treat not only that, but also an inflamed gallbladder. The prednisone was her only medication that was specific to her Crohn’s disease, and he increased that instead of the others.

It didn’t make any sense, but she decided to play along. “Alright,” she told him, “I’ll get a new doctor to give me a second opinion. But since you think nothing is wrong with me, then can you just send me home?”

After that he grew nervous and said things such as, “Don't tell your doctor,” and, “I'm going to get in so much trouble.” The next day he proceeded to talk to her again, saying “You can’t get me in trouble, go ahead, I already wrote everything down. They won’t believe you.”

He also asked her what her pain medication should be raised to, to which she responded, “How should I know? I’m not a doctor.”

That day he lowered her prednisone to 70mg, which is dropping 10mg in one day. Prednisone is a medication that has severe withdrawal symptoms that can kill, and should never be lowered more than a few mg every couple days.

The next day he came in with another nurse, and then proceeded to tell her that she should not have been taking him seriously. He said that she should not change her diagnosis based on talking to someone for such a short time. He did not want her to follow his advice, which means he was not being serious about it. If he was not being serious, then why did he speak to her about it at all?

Later he had a social worker came down and talk to her.

She knew this was serious, as the doctor was trying to discredit her by making her look crazy. Instead, she tried to get the social worker to understand. “Doctors shouldn’t just be able to tell people they’re diagnosed wrong when they’re in the hospital for treatment and they aren’t even their doctor.”

“It happens all the time, and you should just deal with it. Doctors disagree.”

“That messes with people’s heads, and could make someone kill themselves. He’s in dangerous territory."

The social worker then tried to have her committed since she brought up the dreaded word of suicide. The psychiatrist who spoke to my mom said she was not crazy or suicidal, and that the doctor’s behavior was unacceptable. She was so relieved to have someone agree with her, and after that one of the nurses finally stepped up.

She had been one who knew my mom fairly well. She came across another doctor who supposedly had been a partner of my mother’s gastroenterologist. They came in to speak, and to her and the nurse’s surprise, he immediately jumped to support the on-call doctor.

When my mother said that he had been ‘bullying’ her, he cut her off right there.

“Don’t use that word, it’s like shouting ‘bomb’ in an airport.”

By implying that a bomb is similar to an incident of bullying, he clearly showed that this type of incident is a serious problem there.

From that point forward, my mother knew he would not be of any help. The nurse quickly had my mom dismissed from the hospital since she could see that they were only making her sicker.

When my mother was dismissed, the on-call doctor once again dropped her prednisone, but this time all the way to 20mg. That is 50mg in one day, after dropping 10mg the day before. This could have easily sent her into a coma, cardiac arrest or even death.

This was not the first time we had issues with this hospital, and I’m sure it will not be the last. Hospitals across the nation are slowly causing more and more problems for their patients. It’s a horribly common problem, one that no one knows about.

When it gets to the point that her doctor won’t admit her because he knows that she may not get the care she needs, then we know there is a serious problem.

This needs be brought to light now, so that we can change this so other people won’t suffer the same way. People deserve to be treated in the hospital, not made worse. It’s time we fix that.