2017-06-28 / Editorials

Mike Reese

“I was just thinking”

I was looking through one of my AARP magazines. They’re my monthly reminders that I’m of retirement age, but not retired. There was an article, though---“50 Great Ways To Live Longer.” You can probably guess many of the fifty ways----“Eat more veggies. Drink less, as in less Jack Daniel, and less Budweiser,” etc., etc. But the Number 34 Way To Live Longer shocked me. “John Hopkins University found that 250,000 patients die each year in hospitals due to medical mistakes, poor practices, misdiagnoses, and drug errors.” So, Way #34 advises us to stay away from hospitals, if possible. I’ve been a hospital and ER patient only a few times and I had good experiences in both places. Yet, that 250,000 factor keeps lingering.

But when you’re really, really sick or hurt you really, really would like to see a hospital, a doctor, an ER, right? Your first contact might be the ER, where, hopefully, there’s a good outcome, and you’re either sent home feeling better, or sent to one of their hospital rooms where getting better is the goal, too.

But the John Hopkins study states that that’s not always the case. Remember the annoying 250,000 figure. Did that surprise you? They didn’t offer any specific examples of needless deaths, but you’ve probably read of some “hospital mistakes”, right? Like the patient just waking up from surgery, and finds that the doctor sawed off their left leg instead of the right one which was the “right one.” Or, maybe your non-cancerous kidney was removed, while your severely malignant kidney is still your body buddy. That’s a very bad day, I’d say. Your best option now, I suppose, is get on that transplant list ASAP.

Like me, I’d bet up until the last ten or fifteen years you seldom heard of anyone getting a staph infection while in the hospital. Not terribly unusual now days, is it? Years ago, a treble hook (3 hooks in one) found its way inside the meaty part of my palm. I made a wimpy, futile effort to remove it. My wife mumbled “ER”, I think, and I immediately blurted ok, let’s go! The ER doctor had a “special tool” used, he said, to cut metal objects in two that were lodged in patient’s bodies somewhere. He was a big guy, but his special tool was no match for the treble hook. I jokingly suggested that he call the hospital’s maintenance guy. “He’d have some cutting pliers that would probably get the job done,” I said. He took my half-baked idea seriously and called him. Long story short, the maintenance guy came to the ER, took his cutting pliers from his tool box, and had that nasty hook out in a few seconds.

I’ve wondered if the maintenance guy ever collected the doctor’s fee for my ER visit. Probably not. But, thanks again Billy Alligood, MD, Maintenance Doctor.

So, if you’re about to be admitted to a hospital or the ER ask if the maintenance guy is on duty. You just never know.

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