Ohhhh I have been away for awhile. I did not think anything could rival my blogging addiction, but my husband wanted to get an Xbox. Many hours have been sucked up playing Catan, Carcassonne, and Viva Pinata :-) I am completely hooked.
A patient I had a few weeks ago was intubated, even though she told her family she did not want to be. When the chips were down, they chose to tube her. She was pretty pissed when the tube came out.
I tried to talk to the doctor about it. I told him she didn’t want any of this, and that her wishes should be respected. He said that she had been unresponsive at the time that the decision was made, the family chose to tube her, and in the absence of documentation to prove her DNI wishes, that was that. But the thing that really got me was this: “It’s between her and her family. I’m not getting in the middle of it.” He said that to me twice.
For some reason it really bugged me that he said that. Isn’t that our job? To get in the middle of it? I understand the lack of documentation, but he brushed it all off, wanted to get on to his next patient.
The other thing that bugged me: When he came to see her, he sat at the computer, looked at her labs, wrote a note and left. He didn’t even go in and see the patient. Was it because she was sedated on a vent? Or was it because I was doing a sedation vacation on her and she was actually awake but difficult to communicate with?
It is very difficult to communicate with people on ventilators. They try to talk but they can’t. It’s hard to lip-read around a tube. If you untie the restraints to let them write they either go for the tube in their moment of freedom, or what they write isn’t legible. Communication boards are a nice idea, but when someone’s coming off sedation, their limbs feel as though they weigh a ton. It’s actually quite difficult for an elderly person to even hold their hand steady enough to point at a picture. If they can even see the pictures and words.
Still, I managed to ascertain that she was ready for the tube to come out whether the docs thought it was appropriate or not. It took me a long time to figure this out and I had to watch many bouts of frustration while she tried to get her message across. Many patients gesture wildly and when the guesses I proffer aren’t correct, the frustration in their faces is heartbreaking. They sometimes literally throw their hands down and close their eyes in defeat.
It’s hard when people who are in charge of your well-being can’t understand what it is you’re saying. It’s scary to be tied down to the bed with a tube you never wanted stuck in your throat while you wait for test results to come back. Test results that determine whether we remove the offending tube, or whether we put you back to sleep to wake you up another day and try again.
I managed to figure out what she wanted, though. It took some time, lots of guessing, and perseverance. It took some patience waiting for her to get over her frustrated moments enough to try again. And then, finally, the tube came out, and she confirmed her wishes to me immediately.
After all that… I summarize the major plot points for the physician and all I get back is, “I’m not getting in the middle of it. She needs to work it out with her family.”
Well good for you. Problem solved (for you). Now you can get on to the next patient. You may as well have written your progress note from home and faxed it in for me to put on the chart. Enjoy the fee you collected on your “patient visit.”