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A stressful day with a happy ending-2

May 16, 2010

Betty’s Cataract Surgery, Part 2

The day of the surgery we had to be at the hospital at 10 am, and I’m a night owl, so between my wide awake tendencies and my anxiety, I’d only gotten about an hour’s sleep. That was the first stressor. Our friend Carolyn came with us to take care of me– the hospital took care of Betty, it was me Carolyn was focussed on. And I needed it. We got to Bryn Mawr, and I dropped off Carolyn and Betty half hour early then went to park. I had trouble finding the parking garage because the signs were confusing, got directions, and then ended up parked at the top, outside in the sun.

The three of us got to the reception desk at exactly 10 am. No interpreter. The receptionist said, “she’s coming, sit down and relax.” But after 15 minutes, Carolyn pushed me to find out more. It’s not normal to wait for a scheduled interpreter because their training emphasizes being early to all appointments. Sure enough, the receptionist called and was told there was no record of a request. So she called over the pre-admissions nurse who wrote out what I couldn’t lipread– yes, they had arranged for an interpreter, but they (the agency or the interpreter herself, I’m not sure which) misplaced the paperwork and so no one was coming. But the hospital had already called a different agency. For awhile, I thought of canceling and rescheduling the surgery but there was a lot of pre-op prep to go through and we’d have to do it all over again. So we stayed. Waiting was the next stressor.

It wasn’t until 1:15 that the new interpreter showed up. The staff at the hospital were apologetic, but it wasn’t their fault. The hospital and the doctor’s office did everything right. But stuff happens. We moved on. While waiting, Carolyn had told me about a time she was in the hospital and she woke up from surgery without an interpreter. They wouldn’t let her husband, Larry in the recovery room (this is standard, I think, but my knowledge comes from watching TV), but that meant there was no one she could tell about her pain. So I asked that Jessica stay with Betty until she was “under” and then be in the recovery room before she woke up so that Betty would be able to communicate and be less confused and scared. That’s exactly what they did– and it worked out well. By the time Betty was in the operating room, I was so tired, the nervousness about “eye surgery” had faded into the background a bit.

Everything went well in the operating and recovery rooms, and I was glad Jessica came at the last minute because there were post-op instructions we had to understand. I suspect that people, including me, can be unaware of how much communicating we do. I would have hated being so nervous about surgery and dealing with doctors and nurses entirely by writing. Yeah, I can read lips, but if I’m upset or tired, those skills go out the window.

Now it’s time to go home, and all the nervewracking things are over, right? Wrong. I found my way to the car, and it wouldn’t start. The parking garage was so dark after the brilliant sunlight that I had turned my lights on, then I parked up top in the sun and didn’t remember to turn them off. But the hospital was prepared. I first talked with the cashier and she told me to call security, so I went back to the recovery room to tell everyone what had happened and ask them to call. Not only did the nurses call, but it was so obvious that I was having a difficult day, that I was given a sticker for free parking. Little kindnesses like that really do help, and I was grateful. The jump was interesting too– the security officer didn’t need to use his car battery, he carried a portable thing-a-ma-jig and hooked it to the car. I hadn’t seen that before.

Thing is, when your car is jumped you’re supposed to drive it for at least 15 minutes, and the spot where I was picking up Betty and Carolyn was only 5 minutes away. But the recovery room’s windows are right there. So I left the car running, went up to the window and signed that I was ready and waiting but didn’t want to turn off my car. I couldn’t see in, but Betty saw me so they came out. The nurse escorting Betty pointed to the ground at my feet. I’d been carrying Betty’s eyeglasses cocked in the neck of my shirt, and forgotten about them. Seems the seatbelt had loosened a lens and it fell to the ground. Weirdest thing was, it was the correct lens, from the right eye that had just been operated on. We didn’t have to figure out what to do with Betty’s glasses, they decided for us!

A big Thank You to the people of Bryn Mawr Hospital for both their professionalism and their personal concern and efforts to make things better for us. They do this operation so often that it could be easily be dehumanizing, but I never once felt like we were going through a production line. And we get to do it all over again in a few days, on Betty’s left eye. This time we all know the system, and I won’t be so nervous.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. -oo- permalink
    May 16, 2010 10:39 pm

    Nancy, I probably would have walked out when I learned the interpreter wasn’t there. Bu that’s if it was for me alone. If there are others involed, I would’ve done what you did: wait it ou. But to wait until past 1 pm??!! Why do long, I wonder? And I’m so disappointed that y’all had to go through this.

    I just want to comment that I’m astonished at the ignorance of asking why an interpreter would be needed if the patient is going to be asleep!!?? Uv cawse there are pre- and post-op communications!!! Hello! Someone was napping in the brain department!! Honestly. That reminds me of my experiences with receiving a braille menu back in the day when I’d let the server know I’m deaf and wanted to see a menu because as good as my speech is I still get the occassional ice cream cone when asking for Iced tea. AND I still get mocha coffee when I ask for milk??!! Yoiks!

    Hopefullythere will be no more confusion and delayed services for Betti’s second surgery.

    May I also comment on how brilliant it was of you to bring your own advocate person??!! I LOVE that idea and will try to do it, too, if when need be!



    • May 17, 2010 12:29 am

      Hi Jules, thanks for all your comments– love the story of getting a braille menu! I’d read that had happened, but never to someone I knew!

      Having Carolyn there as an advocate was a huge help for me. While I “can” advocate for myself, I really hate doing it, so her pushing helped. And I know if I were to completely fall apart emotionally she’d be able to take over and make sure our needs were met.

      As for why we had to wait so long for an interpreter, I expect it was just a matter of finding someone who was available at the last minute. I know that in some communities, like DC, interpreter referral services often have terps on emergency call, and they have to respond to a dedicated pager. I don’t know if Philadelphia has a similar program in place, I should ask the referral agencies if they do this, or if the money for it dried up when the economy tanked over the past couple of years.

      Hugs, backatcha!

      Nancy C.

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