Quality Healthcare Does Matter: Update on my mom

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Illustration by Ginny

As a former biology student with no accomplished doctoral degree, I understand I am not a doctor.  I am just a nerd whose “Miss-Know-It-All” opinions should be kept to herself; but there have been some moments, in a doctors office, when one of my unkempt bushy eyebrows slowly rise above the other, transforming my facial expression into a questioning look, thinking to myself, “I bet this person averaged a C+ in med-school.

My Expectations For Quality Healthcare 

I do trust doctors.  I, just like so many other people on this planet, have to have faith that doctors knows what they are doing.  After all, our health is totally in their hands; well, some of it at least, for that we do carry a good portion of self-responsibility when it comes to keeping our own bodies healthy.

However, when our bodies do fall ill, we have to trust that our doctor will accurately diagnose our health problem(s) by looking at an array of crazy different symptoms, which often mimic a zillion-and-one other health problems.  We have to trust that they will perform the appropriate tests to come to a single accurate diagnosis.  We also have to trust that they will provide us with an effective treatment plan.  Quality healthcare isn’t just about accuracy, but also about communication, positive attitudes, and compassion.

Although I have high-standards (I admit) for healthcare, I am not expecting perfection. Seriously, I understand the job can be extremely stressful.  I volunteered once at a hospital; a bag of pee (urine) exploded on me and I now have a whole new appreciation for those working in the medical field, especially nurses.  Healthcare providers endure long hours, in a fast-pace, better-know-your-stuff, demanding, type of work environment with angry, ill, not always the most pleasant kind of patients.  It totally makes it difficult to provide astounding quality care when you are having to work under those types of conditions.

In my opinion,  I believe it’s the dedicated healthcare providers, who aren’t just there for a paycheck, that provide the best quality of care to patients.  Even the sour apples (moody healthcare providers) who are just, understandably, burnt out, can often times still provide quality healthcare to their patients.

Unfortunately, there are some healthcare providers (hopefully not a lot them) who seem to treat patients as if they are just an inconvenient problem sliding through a ticket queue, expressing little to no compassion, with the intent to just collect a paycheck.  Have you ever encountered a healthcare provider like that?  Not quite the comforting experience you want when you feel like crap, right?  

Then again, there are healthcare providers who absolutely try to do their very best to provide quality healthcare, yet unfortunately, mistakes still do happen, because lets be honest, nobody is perfect…

Dangers of Healthcare Mistakes 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am worried about my mom.   I am worried about her health and I am also worry that she is not receiving the best quality of healthcare.

As a short recap, my mom has been really sick.  She felt as if her health had been declining; feeling weaker and weaker everyday.  Everyone is afraid of the ugly “C” word; however, according to my mom, doctors now think it might just be her Diabetes causing all the issues.

Well, I guess after being told it might be her Diabetes on the fritz, she made an executive decision on her own (not doctor approved) to stop her insulin injections (a potentially dangerous decision that should never be made without doctor approval).  However, my mom is now telling us that she feels so much better since nixing the insulin.

Personally, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps she was experiencing an overdose of insulin; in which is also SUPER dangerous!   So, yeah, my hair is a bit frizzled in anger, because let me share with you the events that lead up to my mom’s (reckless, yet probably life-saving) decision to stop insulin injections…

Earlier this year, my mom’s doctor started her on insulin.   However, the physician assistant (P.A.) poorly demonstrated how to properly administer the injections, insisting that the protective cap, covering the needle on the injector pen, is not to be removed.  My mom says she was a bit confused, because she couldn’t understand how the injection was going to work without removing the cap from the needle; however, the physician assistant continued to insist the cap is not to be removed, otherwise she would not get the needed dose amount, because it will leak without the cap.  So, my mom did as instructed (despite the massive bruising it was causing- horrible, I saw it).  Anyway, turns out, the first 2-3 months of starting insulin injections, my mom was not getting any insulin at all!

I wonder if the physician assistant, perhaps (giving them the benefit of the doubt), thought the protective cap was more like a protective “guard” in which the injection needle protrudes through the guard once the injector is pressed into the body (some do that).  Unfortunately, the physician assistant’s mistake may have possibly done some damage, for that the doctor later increased the dosage of insulin due to the fact there was little to no change in blood sugars.  Nobody ever questioned whether or not the injections were being administered properly.

At this point, not realizing she is not getting insulin from the insulin injector, my mom decided to work harder to try to maintain her blood sugars on her own by changing up her diet.  In her mind, perhaps the insulin was actually working, but her diet was making it difficult for the insulin to do its job.  So, she gained control of her blood sugars, but she was under the impression it was the insulin injections (not her diet).

Then, one day, the local pharmacist recognized there was a problem with the way my mom was administering her insulin injections.  The pharmacist informed my mom that the brand of insulin injectors she was using does require the protective cap to be removed to properly administer insulin into the body.  My mom was shocked, embarrassed, and furious (who wouldn’t be)!

Ever since my mom started taking insulin (actually getting insulin from her injector pen), she has been getting sicker and sicker.  Instead of investigating the root problem, her doctors were only treating the symptoms.  It was only about a week ago, my mom had this realization that her health problems had started shortly after learning how to properly administer insulin with the insulin injector.  Therefore, she wondered if maybe her health problems have something to do with the insulin.  The only way to find out, she figured, is to stop the insulin injections all together and see what happens (Again, not something you should do without doctor approval-ever).

Because my mom is not a doctor, she didn’t know that injecting insulin into her body when she had her blood sugars under control could be potentially dangerous.  If the blood sugars are under control without the need for additional insulin, adding more insulin into the body could cause severe health issues.  This could be (I am not a doctor, either) the reason she has been so sick, especially, if the earlier increased insulin dose was not lowered after realizing the injector was not administering insulin at all.  Furthermore, it is also equally dangerous to stop insulin all together without the approval and oversight of a doctor; for that, insulin, at a lower dosage, may still be needed.

A Potentially Dangerous Situation That Could Have Been Avoided

Had the physician assistant properly demonstrated how to appropriately administer insulin with that specific type of insulin injector, months of feeling ill could have been prevented.  How many other patients are going without insulin due to this one tiny misinformed mistake?  Also, the fault doesn’t entirely rest on the shoulders of the PA, but also the doctor who authorized an increase in insulin without questioning whether or not the patient was properly administering their insulin in the first place.  Furthermore, in the grand scheme of all things going on with my mom’s health, I can understand why it took so long to figure this out.  Unfortunately, I still fear the extra insulin could have caused further damage to her health.

All we can do now, is to move forward.  According to my mom, her blood sugars are still a bit “wonky,” but I think that is a expected, especially, after months of chaos with different doses of insulin.  Fortunately, my mom has finally agreed to change doctors!  (YAY!!)  She has only been off insulin for a week and has an appointment soon with her new doctor, so it’s not like she is going to go months without insulin leaving her Diabetes unchecked or anything.  She just wanted to give it a try, to see if she feels better without it and fortunately for her, she does feel better!  Again, it was a reckless, yet probably life-saving decision to make without a doctor’s approval.

Not Over Yet…Waiting For Test Results

Well, that is one hurdle we barely managed to leap over; however, we are still waiting back on a lot more tests before determining my mom’s overall health status.  One day at a time, right?  But for right now, I am just so glad that my mom is feeling much better.  You can hear it in her voice again!  ❤