Monday September 7, 2009
With all of this talk about the health care crisis in the air and the acute need for reform, I suppose it is that much more likely that we will take the cynical view of doctors and nurses who get paid to help us get well. We are quick to conclude “incompetent,” “negligent,” “frustrating,” “annoying,” “indifferent,” “uncommunicative,” “inability to listen,” “distracted,” “the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing,” “cost slashing,” “out of touch,” when we talk about our experience in the hospital or the clinic or the emergency room or the doctor’s office. And if you’ve walked through the system lately, chances are pretty good you found evidence to bolster your case.
Maybe it is a nation-wide malady, fueled by talking heads and media shorts that make the doctor/patient relationship increasingly adversarial. Throw in the insurance companies and the bean counters and the Hippocratic Oath gets lost somewhere in a footnote on the spreadsheet.
But then, along came Yolanda.
When we held our new little Rachel in our arms, with all the awe and wonder of new brothers and sisters and dad and grandma and grandpa all in that state of glory that shines and fills the room in the first few hours that follow the high level achievement of Mom’s delivery of a healthy baby, Rachel cried out. At the time, we just thought she knew how to let us know that she wanted something. We did not know that her sharp cry was a response to a piercing pain just under her neck towards her right shoulder. We soothed her and sang to her and stroked her soft cheeks and informed her of her spectacular beauty and sweetness and laughed about her size and Kristyn’s amazing work birthing a nine pounder. We took lots of pictures and posted them in the Internet for the world to see.
But nurse Yolanda noticed something. Little Rachel’s lips had a bluish tint that just did not seem right. She mentioned it to Kristyn. We need to check this little girl more closely, she said. Kris nodded. “OK,” and handed the little bundle over to the nurse.
Yolanda convinced the powers that be that our little girl should be photographed by X-ray; and as they scanned the image over the lit board, they noticed that one lung was not filling up like the other. As they looked more closely to find a cause, they found something else. There, just under her chin. A broken bone. Unmistakable. During that high-speed, high-powered exit passing through her mother’s birth canal (Kristyn called it “shot from a cannon”), little Rachel broke her right clavicle.
That not only explains the shrill cries, but it also explains the shortage of oxygen. We know that her injury had the effect of slowing her breathing, decreasing the oxygen supply. As oxygen level drops, breathing slows more. We do not even want to think about the possibilities had Rachel’s broken bone and breathing difficulties had gone undetected.
As I left the children’s intensive care unit where Kristyn fed her newborn, I passed by the sink where I had earlier performed the mandatory scrub-down toward the exit and a nice nurse smiled and asked me if I enjoyed seeing my grandchild. “Yes, indeed,” I replied.
Then I stopped. “Do you know nurse Yolanda?” I asked.
“Yolanda on the day shift?”
“That’s the one.”
“Sure, we know Yolanda,” she nodded with a knowing smile.
I told her about the blue lips and the skilled observation and the ready testing and the broken bone and the trouble breathing. And I said, “You are looking at one very grateful grandpa.”
She seemed to sigh one of those sighs that affirmed the Hippocratic Oath she affirmed way back there on graduation day.
“Would you please deliver a message to Yolanda? Tell her that there is a Grandpa out there looking forward to delivering a warm thank you in person one day soon?”
“I certainly will.”Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009 Story told with permission