A family relative was hospitalized this week with a stroke at a hospital a few hours from me –and his experience left me demoralized about medicine.
Joe (not his real name) is an 82 year old grandfather, father, husband and one of a kind. He has a scraggly beard and ponytail. He possesses an artistic spirit, but is punctual to a fault – always early, never late. He has an integrity that is rare these days, which led to a loyal following in business and life. And yes, he is devoted to his family.
On Tuesday, he developed some difficulty with his balance. His wife of over 60 years was worried and brought him to the doctor. That is when the issues began.
Issue #1. His doctor fit him into her schedule and recognized the possibility of the early signs of stroke and sent him for an MR imaging study of his brain. And she also gave him an aspirin, which he promptly took. The problem is that the MR study revealed a small bleed in his brain – and the last thing you want to give someone bleeding in his brain is an aspirin because it can cause more bleeding.
Issue #2. At one of the nation’s most reputable New England hospitals he was evaluated in the Emergency Department and admitted to the hospital. He is brought upstairs to the stroke ward fairly late and he is exhausted. Even later he is told that he must have a CT scan of the brain.
He is stable. His symptoms are not changed. Nevertheless, someone orders a CT scan. There was no discussion about whether he should have the scan with Joe’s family; they were told he needed to have one. After the scan, his family is told that the scan will not be read until the morning when the radiologist arrives. They push and are told that the technician looks at the scan and would let someone know if it looked abnormal.
They push a little more and ask that they speak to someone who is managing his case. A resident arrives and tells them that there is nothing alarming. The family asks if it will be compared with the scan from earlier in the day (as that was the reason they took the scan 6 hours later) and are told that scan hasn’t been uploaded yet, even though it was with Joe’s records when he was in the Emergency Department.
They ask the resident to retrieve it from the emergency room and make the comparison. Finally they are told that the Radiologist in the ER reviewed it – but when they ask who reviewed it, they are not told a name.