A friend of mine was recently admitted to hospital, the result of compromised breathing that turned out to be blood clots in his lungs.
He has a long list of health issues and unanswered questions that he’s been trying to resolve for the last decade, but the bottom line is that his immune system is severely compromised.
During the consultation with his doctor the morning he was admitted, he was told to stay out of public places and to ensure he was not around sick people.
Just 30 minutes later, another patient was brought in to share his room with a severe cough from an unknown source.
I’m not a doctor, and I’m sure there are complicated scenarios that play out in the admitting departments of hospitals every day, but this oversight seemed particularly risky.
Surely, if a doctor is advising a patient, quite adamantly I might add, that he needs to be very careful about where he goes and with whom he has contact, the same advice should be given to the staff on the hospital floor.
Feeling somewhat threatened by the obvious respiratory problems of his roommate, my friend requested assistance from the nursing station.
Some time later, when a nurse appeared, he expressed his concern and filled her in on what his doctor’s advice had been. She listened, offered to speak to his doctor, and left.
Quite some time later, if time can be measured by the coughing spasms of a roommate, the nurse returned to say that his doctor was not in the hospital but she would see what she could do.
Again she disappeared, even as the coughing in the next bed had forced her to move closer to my friend to hear what he was saying.
True to her word, she returned a while later and the other patient was removed.
My friend didn’t know how long the entire process took, as he didn’t have anything around by which to measure time and he, himself, was feeling a bit dopey from the various medications and his general state of exhaustion.
He thought it might have taken a couple of hours to resolve the issue, and during that time, the room had certainly been filled with whatever virus or bacteria might be affecting the other patient.
After all, his diagnosis was not known yet, so it could be one of many things, including quite contagious pathogens.
The risk of respiratory infection was one issue, but the anxiety this caused him, and the feeling that he had to fight for some common sense to intervene in his situation, left him shaken.
The mistake, perhaps, was that his partner was not with him during this early morning sequence of events, having gone home for sleep after a long night in the emergency ward.
With no one to pursue more immediate action, and to stand at a desk as a reminder of some priority need, the whole sequence of events played itself out over a long and anxious time.
It’s a reminder to all of us that if a loved one is heading to any kind of institution, we need to be attentive to the role of advocating, respectfully but persistently, for the best and most common sense care possible.
• Graham Hookey writes on education, parenting and eldercare. Email him firstname.lastname@example.org.