24 October 2008

they did it with bras, we can do it with bills


kd and mom, originally uploaded by McBeth.

Mom spent the better part (or worse, depending on how you want to fill that particular glass) of this past summer either in hospital or in rehab center following a full knee replacement and a (hello St. Mary's Hospital? Yeah, this one is for you...) a seriously ugly major medical error in having given mom meds that she was known to be allergic to, as in meds listed on the charts as big hairy no-nos. As in, meds the intake nurse and the anesthesiologist and the other nurse and those other people all talked with her about, both pre- and post-surgery. Each person who went over her chart with her talked about medication allergies and this particular one came up repeatedly in discussions. I was sitting there, people. She might not have remembered much through that month but I kept a handy little notebook into which I jotted down the particulars, including the name of the doctor who authorized the panic. Just for fun I think it'd be a hoot to have the individual who made that landslide decision and all the short-tempered staff we had to deal with following the breakdown be fed enough of whatever pills could induce psychosis so they also are able share in the heartfelt experience, the joy of being even more unwell and in way less manageable ways. Please don't misunderstand, there were some very very kind and patient staffers, particularly nurses, who provided care for mom and who took the phone calls from her children, and the repeated questions and the follow-ups and the follow-up follow-ups. I would like to thank you few for the work you do. You are underpaid and vastly under appreciated, and I want you to know I saw the support you offered my mother and my family is grateful to you.

I've heard that people can die by hospital error and frequently do, while hospitals still don't have to assume responsibility for making a person be dead. In fact, 18 patient safety indicators evaluated contributed to $9.3 billion excess charges and 32,591 deaths in the United States annually.

I think that sucks. Yes of course it's true that users and malingerers exist, people who want to swing from someone else's coin purse. But I just want to say here to the collective staff -and specifically, to the billing department, who probably only ever handles the credits and debits- at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison Wisconsin, who has been sending bills, including charges for the week of care they provided to my mother after they had to re-admit mom from a rehab center when she took that drastic allergic reaction downturn: My mother isn't one of those malingerers. She was merely trying to get healthier while in your care, and you broke her. After the insurance payments shake out she may have some out of pocket expenses for her first few days there, but as for the time and charges for the time following that mistake you made? You can eat that one.

She came out alive. You were lucky.

All this is to say, my mom is smiling and walking and is much more mobile with her new bionic knee. Not everything is easy to do yet, but not everything was ever easy to do. She's healthier, fitter, and looking sassy here on my brother's wedding day.

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