I think we made a mistake

Whenever I’m in Temple, Texas on a Sunday, I attend my parents’ church and sit in their pew. Like so many churchgoers, my parents sit in the same pew every Sunday. I felt compelled to attend church on May 17, 2015, to let our pew friends know what had happened to my mother. On the way to the church, my friend Rhoda and I stopped by the hospital to check in on my parents.

sadWe started in the north tower to see my father. He was sitting up in bed and looked very frail. He seemed to have weakened significantly from the previous evening. He looked up at me and said something that I couldn’t understand. When I asked him what he said, he said, “I think we made a mistake.”  I put on my positive face and told him that we couldn’t go back—the surgery was behind us. All we could do was look forward. Rhoda and I visited with him for a more few minutes and then went to see my mother in the hospital’s south tower.

According to her doctors, they planned to move my mother from the Medical ICU (MICU) to “the floor” sometime that day. Rhoda stayed with her while I attended church. Ironically, my mother was having trouble remembering that she had to stay in bed. Her stroke was doing a number on her short-term memory.

Because Scott & White is a major employer in Temple, many of the parishioners work for the HMO in one way or another, including our three friends who sit in the pew behind us. As you might expect, they were very disturbed to learn what had happened to my mother. One of these wonderful women, Sue, would become our guardian angel. When I left the church to return to the hospital that day, I felt a little calmer. Church was definitely where I needed to be that Sunday morning.

My sense of calm was short-lived, however. As I pulled into the hospital parking lot, my phone rang. I could tell from the caller ID that the caller was Mallory, one of the surgeon’s PAs. She told me that she needed to talk with me about my father’s declining condition, which was serious enough to move him from the fourth floor back to CTICU on the second floor. As I walked out of the second-floor elevator in the north tower, my phone rang again. It was Rhoda calling to tell me that my mother was being moved from the MICU on the second floor to the fourth floor in the south tower.

There was a reason why my father had looked so weak and frail that morning. His white blood cell count had spiked from 15k (a little higher than normal) to 43k (amazingly high). It was such a large spike that the resident indicated on his chart that the results were frivolous, and then ordered follow-up bloodwork. Following the additional lab work they learned that he now had pneumonia, a staph infection, and a couple of other infections.  His white blood cell count was now 45k and his doctor for the week described his condition as serious.

 It was at this moment that my education about the health care industry started in earnest.

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