Compassionate Care Should Be Mandatory

Our darling Myra recovered well from her temporary tracheotomy surgery on Saturday evening. She was so happy to see us; we felt terrible leaving her in the hospital overnight, but there was no way for me to care for her in a hotel room at the Holiday Inn or while speaking at the pet expo on Sunday. I assured her we would return Sunday evening to take her home; the doctor agreed to the plan. I saw a sign as we were leaving the hospital stating morning calls to check on pets should be made after 10 a.m. to allow the doctors ample time to assess the patients on their morning rounds.

Sunday morning I waited until 10:30 and called the hospital. The doctor was not available, so I was unable to get an update. I was assured of a return phone call. By 12:30 I had not heard from anyone, so I called again and asked if I could at least speak with a technician in ICU if the doctor was still unavailable. The doctor did come to the phone and informed me Myra had done well overnight. I was relieved, but the conversation went downhill after that.

When I told the doctor we would arrive around 6:30 pm to pick up Myra for the trip home, she informed me Myra could not leave the hospital with a temporary tracheotomy. She stated the tube in the trachea needed to be changed every 12 hours and suctioned frequently. I was never told that by the previous doctor. When I asked why a permanent tracheotomy was not performed instead of a temporary, her answer was that they don't generally do a permanent tracheotomy on the weekends. This made no sense to me, as a board certified surgeon performed the surgery on Saturday. The mass in the throat was not removable; it made no sense to perform a temporary procedure. When I asked what the long term plan was to manage Myra's breathing, her answer floored me.

She said they'd get the biopsy report back on Tuesday, but since Myra already had lymphoma and was already on chemotherapy, the prognosis was grim anyway. My blood was starting to boil. When I asked if her plan was for Myra to stay there until we had a piece of paper with a diagnosis, which did not change the actual daily living for Myra, her answer was that Myra could keep the temporary tracheotomy tube until the mass was treated with chemotherapy or radiation, although the prognosis was grim. Basically, this clinician was stating that Myra would live the rest of her life in their ICU and since the prognosis was so poor, we really shouldn't worry about long term issues anyway. My eyeballs were popping out of my head, the veins in my neck were standing out, and my blood pressure hit a new high. How dare this person, who does not know me or Myra, write off this active, bouncy, wonderful creature who has such a zest for life? And who in their right mind is going to let their family member live in ICU for an extended period of time, just waiting to die?

I refrained from being unprofessional (although I really felt the doctor on the other end of the phone was treating me like a child rather than a professional). I requested that a surgeon be found that could make the tracheotomy permanent, immediately, so that Myra could be transferred back into my care and the care of Dr. Vickery, her oncologist. Luckily, a surgeon agreed to do the procedure Sunday afternoon.

I told the doctor we would arrive at the hospital at 6:30 to visit with Myra on our way home and would return Monday to pick her up and take her home. I was told they didn't have any openings in the visitation schedule that evening. Say what???

Believe it or not, this hospital allows visitation for 15 minutes with your pet, once a day, IF they have an opening in the schedule. I was livid. I immediately called Hope Veterinary Specialists and spoke with a critical care doctor. The visitation schedule at Hope is much different. Clients are WELCOMED to visit with their pets; these are family members! As much as I wanted to move Myra immediately, I would not have been able to transport her to Hope until 10 pm Sunday, which meant her surgery would have been put off until Monday and she would have had to spend another day in the hospital. I couldn't bare the thought of picking her up and dropping her off, as she wouldn't understand being left behind again. And if her tube clogged during the hour and a half car ride, I would be helpless to help her. So I agreed to have the surgery done Sunday so Myra would be home on Monday.

We did go to the hospital Sunday night and we were granted a five minute visit with Myra. The surgeon came in to speak with us briefly, but I felt there was no compassion, just a pure clinical description. Myra's critical care doctor never made an appearance.

While the medical procedures and care at the emergency center were fine, the compassion and care of the client/patient bond was nowhere to be found. Now that I know the policies of this hospital, I will not refer patients that will need to be hospitalized. It is unfair to the owners who love their family members. No human hospital would ever set such ridiculous visitation rules. This hospital needs a good dose of reality when it comes to compassionate care for both the patients and the owners.

To be continued with the outcome of Myra's stay...


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